Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Wistariahurst awarded Mass Humanities Grant for "Nuestras Abuelas" Exhibition

Wistariahurst Museum has been awarded a Mass Humanities ‘Engaging New Audiences’ grant to produce the photography and bi-lingual text exhibition Nuestras Abuelas de Holyoke: Empowerment and Legacy curated by Waleska Santiago. This exhibition will narrate stories of women in general, and Latinas in particular drawing attention to concepts of family, challenges faced by grandmothers raising their families, gender expectations, and the connections between grandmothers and their adult grandchildren who reside in Holyoke. The project will be launched this fall, as Santiago works with members of the community on gathering stories and images with the resulting exhibition opening in March of 2016, at Wistariahurst Museum.

Waleska Santiago is the Museum Educator at the Art Gallery of the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford, Connecticut, holds a BA in Art History from Mount Holyoke College, and is pursuing a Master of Liberal Arts degree in Museum Studies at Harvard University. Santiago describes her work, “My interest and experience primarily focuses socially-engaged art that addresses the concerns and interests of non-traditional museum audiences and women. Over the last 18 years that has included the intersection of art considered Latin American, Caribbean, Latino and African American. My efforts have also included work intended to include veterans and college students.”

“This exhibit has the ability to hit you in your cultural soul. Waleska [Santiago] knows that frequently it is our grandmothers who share with us our family stories, traditions and history. This is exactly what Wistariahurst is all about - preserving our local history and culture through exhibits and events. I can’t wait to be moved by these stories,” says Penni Martorell, Holyoke’s City Historian and this grant’s project director.

Beginning in September, Santiago and Community Outreach Coordinator, Maria Salgado-Cartagena will be connecting with Holyoke community members in order to locate adult grandchildren who will share their memories and testimonials of their grandmothers’ influence. Participants will work with Santiago to hone their stories, which will become exhibit text, and to collect and select accompanying photographs. Alberto Sandoval Sanchez, Professor of Latin American Studies at Mt. Holyoke College and Jennifer Guglielmo Professor of History at Smith College will provide historical context and guidance for the exhibit.

Nuestras Abuelas – Our Grandmothers fits in with the on-going efforts of Wistariahurst to uncover, preserve and share the stories of Holyoke residents, past and present. “We are constantly looking for these points of connection with regard to history that people can hook into,” says Kate Preissler, Director of Wistariahurst. “The Nuestras Abuelas project addresses complicated topics such as gender roles and what it means to be a family but it uses the personal stories of people within this community to make them accessible and relatable. We can learn so much by listening to each other.”

Nuestras Abuelas – Our Grandmothers is funded in part by Mass Humanities, which receives support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and is an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Additional funding is from Historic Holyoke at Wistariahurst and the Pioneer Valley History Network’s ‘Herencia Latina Project’ supporting public programming in response to ALA/NEH’s 500 Years of Latino History.

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