International Community Day at the Art Museum
On Sunday, October 7th, our day was spent tabling on behalf of Margaret W. Wong & Associates, LLC at International Cleveland Community Day that has been taking place at the Cleveland Museum of Art since 2012. It took place in the Atrium, as it has for the past several years.
The museum's program notes describe the occasion as "a celebration of the rich diversity our our region's multiethnic communities, featuring traditional music and dance performances, cultural displays, and in gallery experiences. During this vibrant afternoon, enjoy presentations from more than 50 community groups expressing the continued vitality of the global cultures that enliven our city."
Ms. Jacqueline M. Anselmo, Associate Director of Program Administration at the Museum, checked us in so we proceeded to set up our table sandwiched in between that of the United Ukrainian Organization overseen by Ms. Nadia Simovic, Ms. Maria Strus, Ms. Anna Barrett, and Ms. Irene Iammarino on one side and table of the Serbian Heritage Foundation watched over by our friend, Dr. Nada Martinovic and her mother Ms. Danaca Martinovic.
Over the course of the day, we mostly stayed in the Atrium watching musical groups perform and visiting with other people tabling. Among the people who stopped by our table and chatted with us throughout the day were:
A young man from India who has lived in the United States for four years and is applying to stay here longer.
A woman from New Mexico who wore a "Water is Life" button so we told her about our "Drink Local. Drink Tap". She expressed genuine interest and resolved to explore it some more on line.
A woman who looked at the likeness of Ms. Margaret W. Wong imprinted on our banner and said that if she had just immigrated to the United States she would love to be greeted by a smiling face like that of Ms. Wong's.
A man who has a friend in China who is interested in the EB5 visa and a woman from Canada who has lived in the United States for some 30 years and is now ready to investigate the citizenship process.
A fellow who walked by our table and looked at us like he couldn't figure out what an immigration law office was doing tabling there amongst those representing various countries and/or cultural organizations. Suddenly he laughingly threw back his head and said, "yeah...of course...that makes sense" before he moved on.
As far as tabling. we were impressed by the fill-in-the-blank game that Ms. Lourdes Sanchez and Mexicanos en Cleveland had devised concerning artifacts in the Mexican exhibition. From Ms. Courtney Laves-Mearini of the City Ballet of Cleveland we learned about a creative version of The Nutcracker, called "The Uniquely Cleveland Nutcracker" that will be performed in December.
In terms of musical performances, our own favorite was when the International Folk Ensemble composed of our friends Dr. Nada Martinovic (Serbia), Mr. Asim Datta (India), Mr. Mehmet Gencer (Turkey) and Smiley (Montenegro) shared with us these melodies from their native lands:
Mr. Datta sang for us a piece written by Tagore (the Indian Nobel Laureate) that recalled "Auld Lang Syne".
Mr. Gencer sang a love song that celebrated life comparing the beauty of existence to a fragile but lovely white flower.
Smiley played a compilation of songs on his harmonica.
Dr. Martinovic sang a vintage song about a young guy who has a crush on a young woman whom he thinks is perfect only to find out a surprise!
Near the end of the day, we were returning from the cafeteria having obtained a cup of coffee when we encountered Ms. Irene Zawdiwsky, of the Ukrainian Performing Arts Montage, sitting alone and practicing on her bandura. We took a seat across from her and drank our coffee as we listened to her lovely harmonies.
After a day of crowds of people and stylish, colorful musical numbers, this gentle respite was very much appreciated.
While we were at the table, friends and colleagues Mr. George Koussa and Mr. Justin Faulhaber took in the exhibits. Justin had this to add:
This was my second time at the Art Museum this weekend, having gone to the MIX at the CMA party on Friday evening. The atmosphere on both occasions was very lively. Working at Margaret Wong and Associates always facilitates and encourages me to develop my skills in other languages, particularly Spanish. So, upon arrival, I immediately made my way over to the table of the Hispanic Alliance of Cleveland. This organization aims to promote Mexican culture in Northeast Ohio. They were enthusiastically sharing their culture with the city by promoting the upcoming tradition of Day of the Dead. For those unfamiliar with this particular custom, it is a day to commune with family and remember one’s ancestors in a generally happy, not somber, fashion; the recent film, Coco, was based on this and was also highly enjoyable on its own merits. Members of the H.A. also posed for a picture in their beautiful and colorful costumes.
This time around, sadly, there were no French or German-speaking groups, but I did manage to use a few of the Mandarin phrases that I picked up last summer with representatives of the Confucius Institute at Cleveland State University. While these phrases were mostly limited to things like: “Hello” and “sorry my Mandarin is not good,” they seemed to appreciate the effort, at least, as they told me about an upcoming Art Performance Competition on Saturday December 1st, 2018, at CSU.
As Michael has already shared, the musical and dance performances were all very interesting and enjoyable. One of the first performances I enjoyed were Indian dancers from the Anga Kala Kathak Academy. Later, from up on the balcony, I had a great view of the Saint Paul Senior Hellenic Dancers and another Indian group: the Sree Mayuri Dance Academy. These are just a few of the groups that performed, representing many different cultures and traditions. Alas that photos cannot capture the music that accompanied these performances!
Never able to resist a walk among the extraordinary galleries of the museum, I went strolling through. Growing up in Cleveland, even as the museum has changed throughout the years, I have always loved the armor court. As a historian by training, I always find that you can best connect with history by holding it in your hands. My secret dream to be able to wear the armor was partially realized through the Museum’s Art Cart program, which brings museum artifacts to schools and the community. Today they had a small chunk of chain-mail armor to handle, a crossbow bolt, a teenager’s breastplate, and a gauntlet. Even the youngest of these artifacts was some 500 years old! I spent some time exchanging knowledge with museum volunteers who were handling the artifacts and enjoyed most of all being able to wear the gauntlet and feel how all the different parts were articulated. Just this gauntlet had 19 different plates, and a full suit has at least 200 parts, not counting the rivets.
Later, another Art Cart installation was exhibiting objects from Japan: a simple clay pot, a small, round gilded lacquer box perhaps originally intended for holding tea leaves in the house of an important member close to the Imperial Court, and lastly a set of three carved ivory monkeys displaying the classic “Hear no Evil, Speak no Evil, See no Evil” motif. It was interesting to hear about the techniques used to make the pot and box. The lacquering process is particularly labor-intensive. I was most enthralled by the extraordinary detail of the three monkeys, however. Even their teeth, hair, and fingernails had been carved in detail. So enthralled, in fact, that I unfortunately forgot to take a photo of them.
There is also a special exhibition of work by William Morris, whom the exhibition booklet describes as “Astonishingly energetic… a poet, craftsman, designer, novelist, businessman, preservationist, painter, and social activist. A doctor attributed his cause of death in 1896 at age 62 to ‘simply being William Morris, and having done more work than most ten men.’” I had never heard of him before this exhibition, but I was just blown away by the beauty of the textiles and, most of all, books he produced. For the sake of brevity, I will refrain from fawning over them at length and simply post a picture of his edition of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and leave it to the reader to look up more of his work.
In conclusion, I would recommend that anyone come to this event next year and experience not just the tapestries in the galleries, but also the tapestry of different cultures that make up our city. However, one shouldn’t wait so long; this treasure of Cleveland is always free and there is always something new and beautiful to discover!