Traveling exhibit seeking stories, art celebrating the heritage of Covington’s Hispanic community

A little over two years after hosting a well-attended Latino picnic, the Behringer-Crawford Museum is hosting another event to build connections with Covington’s burgeoning Hispanic community.

The so-called Hispanic Culture Collaboration Project will culminate later this year in a traveling exhibit showcasing stories, art and stories from local residents with Latino heritage — but to be successful it needs participants.

The idea is to educate others about Hispanic culture, storytelling and art, said Kim Gehring-Cook, Behringer-Crawford’s director of education. To that end, the museum has sent out a call to the Hispanic community through social media and other means, 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, share their stories, and show others in the community that everyone is more alike than they might have thought,” Gehring-Cook said.

A growing community

The band Son del Caribe performed at the 2019 Latino Picnic at the Behringer-Crawford Museum. (Photo by the City of Covigton)

Covington has seen remarkable growth in its Hispanic population and in the number of Hispanic-owned businesses. A city edition released during National Hispanic Heritage Month spoke to the growing community and its impact.

To engage these families — and in turn, gain the attention of the broader Covington community — the museum looks for things like individual narratives that share their experiences of moving to another country, the traditions they brought with them, and, if they choose, , reflect sharing, family histories and stories.

So far, only a few people have agreed to participate in BCM’s project, but work is underway to get more.

The nonprofit Esperanza Latino Center, which provides services and advocacy for the Hispanic/Latino community from its Pike Street building, has sent texts to the 1,000 community families on its roster to help BCM connect with volunteers to kick.

And Michael Wesson, coordinator of John G. Carlisle Elementary’s Community Learning Center, has arranged for Gehring-Cook to meet with the school’s students this summer for several sessions to create an art project.

“When students, especially when they are young, create artistic expression, it brings their heads, hands, and hearts together and creates something they can be proud of,” Wesson said. “Sharing these cultural experiences with the community enriches those of the culture and of nearby neighbors.”

curate your narrative

Gehring-Cook said that when museum staff first discovered BCM was not reaching the Hispanic community a few years ago, they enlisted the help of Leo Calderon, who helped found Esperanza and sits on BCM’s board of directors, as a liaison .

In September 2019, BCM hosted the first of what it hoped would be an annual Latino picnic. It was a well-attended and festive event, but the COVID-19 pandemic prevented additional events.

Now it is hoped that the mobile exhibit – by bringing to light the community’s experiences of what they value most about their culture and what they wish to share with others about their heritage and history – will recreate that energy.

Residents take part in “Latino Picnic” in 2019. (Photo by the City of Covington)

“Ultimately, it will be curated by the Hispanic community, directed and supported by BCM staff, including bilingual interns, to break down language barriers,” Gehring-Cook said of the exhibit.

“The exhibit will be as envisioned by those in the Hispanic community who are volunteering their time to work on it,” she said.

Hispanic/Latino art will feature prominently in the exhibition.

“As we work multiple times this summer with the students at the John G. Carlisle School, they will complete a Mexican mirror project based on the hojalata (tin art) sold in marketplaces,” Gehring-Cook said.

Ideally, the exhibit will launch more inclusive exhibits, Gehring-Cook said, pointing to 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 biggest stars played during the era of the play segregation.

build up trust

The partnership with John G. Carlisle Elementary and the Esperanza Center means that volunteers do not have to travel to the BCM to participate in the creation of the exhibit, as both the school and the resource center have offered the use of their buildings. That’s important because BCM — located in Devou Park on the west edge of town — isn’t on a bus route. Therefore, transportation to and from the museum is difficult without a car.

Helping Esperanza connect with the families and individuals who use their resources also goes a long way in developing trusting relationships, Gehring-Cook said.

“BCM is working to build on our collaboration and partnership with the Esperanza Center to build trust in the Hispanic community,” she said. “We want the children and families to be involved and feel comfortable and included, not just at BCM but in the communities of northern Kentucky.”

Participate

The Hispanic Culture Collaboration Project’s traveling exhibit will first open in Behringer-Crawford and then travel to the Esperanza Latino Center and John G. Carlisle Elementary. Gehring-Cook said they hope to eventually host libraries and other schools as well.

Gehring-Cook said the deadline for submitting stories, artwork, artifacts and more for the exhibition has changed several times, but they are currently considering a June 1 deadline. They hope to have the exhibition open to 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 education@bcmuseum.org or call 859-491-4003, ext. 1004

City of Covington

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