At noon I'll be speaking to the local Rotary Club, so thought I'd warm up by spreading the news right here.
The subject--which I may have mentioned before--is the project I'm chairing in April, Latinos in the Arts month at the Norwich Arts Center, (NAC), part of the New Visions and Voices initiative that will shine a light on people in our community and Southeastern Connecticut who have not been prominent in the 30-year history of this organization. It was my idea, so my reward has been to see it through. [this part will probably not be included. . .we've had enough of the brainstorming sessions IRL and online that go "wow, it would be nice if someone would.. ." or "they really need to do X,Y,Z"--every benevolent organization with a cause from political to environmental to artistic gets the same helpful suggestions without the volunteers to make them happen]
Our mission since 1987 has been to bring the arts--visual and performing--as affordably as possible to as diverse an audience as possible. My personal mission as founding president was to bring the many squabbling arts organizations in the area together. I can say that we've done pretty well at the first mission, but failed at the second--until the past few years, where I've been able to broker peace deals, mainly by dint of being a Board member or an officer in several different groups. Last year, the torch was lifted from my tired hands by the Southeastern Connecticut Cultural Coalition, a state arts agency, which has succeeded in uniting venues and groups from throughout the region just in time for the forthcoming dissolution of the National Endowment for the Arts. . .but thanks to their leadership, we may have a chance of hanging together, rather than separately.
So, what is this initiative? A simple idea, really--devoting a full month of events at the Center and in the Otis Library to ethnic groups. My original idea was "to more recent immigrant groups in Norwich," but the more politically savvy officers and Board members of NAC softened that language to "specific cultural and ethnic groups within our community." In fact, though, the first two months, April and October, spotlight Latinos and Asians, who are the most recent immigrant groups, thanks to the largest local employers, the two Indian casinos Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun.
It's sheer good luck that I know some brilliant Latino writers, several of whom will be the center of a festive event, Our Stories/ Nuestras Historias on April 29. Carlos Hernandez, who just wowed the audience of Medusa Mia! with his poem about his Santeria Abuela, who once sent a giant rooster after her no-good husband, will repeat that triumph. My former colleague Jose Gonzalez from the Coast Guard Academy will share poems from his collection Toys Made of Rock about his journey from El Salvador to Professor of English. These poets and others will pay homage to Bessy Reyna, poet, attorney, journalist and mentor to a generation of Latino/a poets in Connecticut.
I'm hoping that the flyer for the month will help the audience more than my words--I will attempt to upload a photo--since creating this picture we've made a few corrections and additions, but this captures the spirit--I hope.