The band Son del Caribe performed at Behringer-Crawford Museum’s “Latino Picnic” in 2019.
Museum engaging Covington’s increasingly diverse community
COVINGTON, Ky. – A little over two years after hosting a well-attended Latino Picnic, Behringer-Crawford Museum is organizing another event to build connections with Covington’s burgeoning Hispanic community.
What’s being called the Hispanic Culture Collaboration Project will culminate later this year in a traveling exhibit that features the stories, art, and histories of local residents with Latino heritage – but for it to be successful, it needs participants.
The idea is to inform others about Hispanic culture, narratives, and art, said Kim Gehring-Cook, Behringer-Crawford’s education director. To that end, the museum has put out a call, via social media and other means, to the Hispanic community asking them to participate – because this exhibit, she said, will be theirs.
“BCM wants to give the Hispanic community a platform and a voice where they can celebrate their heritage, tell their stories, and show others in the community that everyone is more alike than they may have thought,” Gehring-Cook said.
Covington has seen notable growth in its Hispanic population and number of Hispanic-owned businesses. A City release published during National Hispanic Heritage Month, seen HERE, spoke to the growing community and its impact.
To engage those families – and in turn to grab the attention of the broader Covington community – the museum is seeking things like individual narratives that speak to their experience in moving to another country, the traditions they brought with them, and, if they choose to share, family stories and histories.
So far only a few individuals have volunteered to participate in BCM’s project, but it’s working to get more.
The nonprofit Esperanza Latino Center, which provides services and advocate for the Hispanic/Latino community out of its Pike Street building, has sent texts to the 1,000 community families on its list to help BCM connect with volunteers.
And Michael Wesson, coordinator for John G. Carlisle Elementary’s Community Learning Center, has arranged for Gehring-Cook to meet with the school’s students this summer for multiple sessions to create an art project.
“When students, especially at a young age, create artistic expression, it brings the head, hands, and heart together making something they can look at with pride,” Wesson said. “Sharing these cultural experiences with the community enriches those of the culture and neighbors nearby.”
Gehring-Cook said that when museum staff first realized a few years ago that BCM wasn’t reaching the Hispanic community, they elicited the help of Leo Calderon, who helped start Esperanza and is on BCM’s board, as a liaison.
In September 2019, BCM hosted the first of what it hoped would become an annual Latino Picnic. It was a well-attended and festive event, but the COVID-19 pandemic prevented additional events from happening.
Now there’s hope that the mobile exhibit – by bringing to light the community’s experiences, what they enjoy most about their culture, and what they want to share with others about their heritage and history – will re-create that energy.
“It will ultimately be curated by the Hispanic community, guided and facilitated by BCM staff, including bilingual interns to eliminate language barriers,” Gehring-Cook said about the exhibit.
“The exhibit will look like whatever those in the Hispanic community, who volunteer their time to work on it, envision,” she said.
Hispanic/Latino art will play a significant role in the exhibit.
“When we work with the students at John G. Carlisle School on multiple occasions this summer, they will be completing a Mexican Mirrors project based on the hojalata (tin art) sold in marketplaces,” Gehring-Cook said.
Ideally, the exhibit will launch more inclusive exhibits, Gehring-Cook said, referencing the Diverse Diamond exhibit in 2021. That exhibit showcased the region’s connection to baseball’s Negro National League, where some of the sport’s greatest stars played during the era of racial segregation.
The partnership with John G. Carlisle Elementary and the Esperanza center means volunteers won’t have to travel to BCM to participate in creating the exhibit, since both the school and the resource center offered use of their buildings. That’s important, since BCM – located in Devou Park on the City’s western edge – is not on a bus route. Thus, without a car, transportation to and from the museum is difficult.
Esperanza’s assistance in reaching out to the families and individuals who use their resources also goes a long way toward developing trusting relationships, Gehring-Cook said.
“BCM is working to build on our collaboration and partnership with the Esperanza Center to build trust with the Hispanic community,” she said. “We want the children and families to get involved and to feel comfortable and that they belong, not only at BCM, but within the Northern Kentucky communities as well.”
The Hispanic Culture Collaboration Project traveling exhibit will initially open at Behringer-Crawford, then travel to the Esperanza Latino Center and John G. Carlisle Elementary. Gehring-Cook said they hope eventually to use libraries and other schools as hosts too.
Gehring-Cook said the deadline for submitting stories, art, artifacts, and more for the exhibit has changed several times, but they’re currently looking at a June 1 deadline. They hope to have the exhibit ready for the public by fall 2022.
The easiest way for volunteers to get involved in the project’s traveling exhibit is to contact Kim Gehring-Cook at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (859) 491-4003, ext. 1004.
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