A Lesson in Culture
(pictured above: Ruth Hopkins addresses her students as Maria Sanchez-Boudy looks on.)
Exhibit gives students insight into experiences of immigrants
Carter G. Woodson students explored the diverse cultural experiences of Hispanics in America last week during a visit to the Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts to learn about “Arts Punto de Vista – Latino Perspectives,” an exhibition of works by artists from across the state.
Maria Sanchez-Boudy guided the students through the exhibit. She heads the Hispanic Arts Initiative, which works with local schools to infuse Hispanic culture into the curriculum. Sanchez-Boudy was delighted that Carter G. Woodson’s entire student body – more than 450 first through 12th graders – viewed the exhibit, which opened Jan. 10 and closed Saturday.
“It’s really unbelievable that the whole entire school will be visiting this exhibit,” declared Sanchez-Boudy, a native of Cuba. “I don’t think that’s ever happened.”
Billed as “a cultural journey through art,” Punto de Vista offered a wide array of paintings, sculptures and mixed media art that portrays the scope of the immigrant experience from the perspective of artists who originally hail from virtually every nation in Latin America. The artists’ works explored seemingly every aspect of immigration, from the idealistic hope that attracts so many foreign born travelers to American soil, to the faith and hard work it takes to create a home in a new land. Some images paid vivid homage to the culture, traditions and life in the artists’ native lands, while others brought to life the unique communities their creators now call home. Featured artists hailed from all over Latin America, including Chile, Colombia, Cuba and Venezuela, as well as Mexico.
The exhibit provided a starting point for people of every nationality to discover their similarities and learn about their differences in a safe, supportive environment, Sanchez-Boudy said.
“We have to build a bridge, because only when we understand each other are we able to accept each other,” she told the students. “When we are able to embrace, walls come down.”
When Carter G. Woodson, a public charter school, opened its doors in 1997, its student body was 100 percent African American. Today, School Director Ruth Hopkins says the student body is 50 percent Hispanic. Carter G. Woodson has always placed a high premium on educating students about their cultural heritage, Hopkins said.
“Nothing feels better than than feeling good about who you are and having a strong sense of who you are,” she declared. “… If you like who you are, you respond better to other cultures.”
During the hourlong sessions she led for each grade level, Sanchez-Boudy used her personal experiences to illustrate the emotions and trials many newcomers to the United States grapple with as they struggle to learn a new culture with new customs, traditions and standards.
“I was in Cuba one morning, and literally 30 minutes later, I was in the United States and my life changed forever,” she told the youth. “…The process of being an immigrant is very, very scary for children, and it’s scary for adults, because you leave everything you know.”
Chelsea Brown, a fourth-grade teacher from Montigo Bay, Jamaica, said she believed students benefitted from their experiences at the gallery.
“I think this is an eye opener,” said Brown, who has lived in the U.S. for the past six years. “It’s art, and we need to have that in the classroom, because when a student can draw all their feelings, that’s a plus… Art is really very important in the teaching process.”
Third graders Axel Davila and Darnesia Gadberry gave the outing rave reviews.
“I liked it; I liked everything,” declared Darnesia, 9. “…I learned that we can make art out of anything.”
For Axel, the trip presented a chance to come face to face with his Mexican heritage. Although he has never been there, Axel, who was born in Winston-Salem was excited to go home and share his experiences with his mother, who was born in Acapulco.
“All these pictures were from (people from) different countries,” he noted. “I’m excited, because maybe when I tell my mom, she might get happy and excited too.”
Brown says she is teaching her students to embrace the diversity they experience within the classroom and the school.
“I let them know that, ‘Listen, from the first day, we are a family,’ and then we don’t have a problem,” she said. “…Families have differences, but we’ve got to work it out, we’ve got to move on, and we’ve got to work together.”
Sanchez-Boudy wants to continue to work with Carter G. Woodson students.
“I am into bridge building, particularly cultural bridge building, because there’s a lot of tension between the African American communities,” she said.
Hopkins, who has led the school since its inception, said she is excited about the possibilities the partnership could hold for her students.
“Cultural pride is a big part of success, for all cultures,” Hopkins said. “We want to make sure that when opportunities arise in Winston-Salem, that our school is a part of changing the face of cultural education.”
For more information about the Hispanic Arts Initiative, visit http://hispanicartsinitiative.org.
View more photos from the visit here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.721432547888950.1073741880.355902327775309&type=1&l=ff203bcfbd