Erie Arts & Culture’s Folklorist in Residence, Kelly Armor, has been working with New American artists and cultural leaders since 2003. Two cultural institutions recently hired her to help them develop relationships with various New American groups.
The expERIEnce Children’s Museum partnered with Kelly on a project that culminated in the release of seven videos in 2021. In the expERIEnce My Home Series children from India, Puerto Rico, Congo, Nepal, Bosnia, Palestine, and Syria welcome a visitor into their home and share food, dance, clothing, and other cultural practices. In 2022 the Museum and Kelly partnered with a Chinese family and released an additional video. In July the Museum was one of 12 children’s museums across the country chosen to present at a national forum to share best practices in serving immigrants and refugees.
Ashley Mass, the museum education coordinator writes, “This project was so much more than a connection between new American families and the museum. I had the opportunity to personally get to know some incredible children, their parents and the cultural richness that they bring to our community. It was an honor to educate learners of all ages about Erie’s diversity.”
The Erie Zoo wanted to align their annual June fundraiser, The Mane Event (formerly GalapaZOOza), with their mission of education and the conservation of wild animals. This year the event focussed on their collection of African animals. Marketing and Event Coordinator Emily Smicker wrote, “The Zoo leadership also wanted the wider community to know that Erie has a vibrant African community. It was a privilege to be able to work with people from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, South Sudan, and Sierra Leone to provide such an enriching and authentic experience for our guests and staff. We look forward to growing the partnerships and the continued relationships in years to come!”
Twelve African artists and leaders representing four countries shared at the event with table displays and a presentation on the main stage. Walaa Ahmad and Wujdan Ahmad found the experience very positive. “We had a wonderful time sharing our rich Eritrean culture at the Erie Zoo’s Mane Event. We had a display of cultural items including traditional clothing and an authentic coffee set, a fish bowl full of fun Eritrean facts, and we wrote guests’ names in one of our native languages: Arabic. We were amazed by the amount of people who stopped by our table. We had over 70 guests inquire about Eritrea’s history and culture, and participate in our activities. We even went on stage and performed a cultural Eritrean dance! We are extremely grateful to the organizers for allowing us to share our stories and a piece of our culture! We had a blast!”