By: Amelia Blake, Manager of Interpretive Programs
Who are your neighbors? Do they celebrate the same holidays as you? Do they eat the same food as you? Wear the same clothing? Listen to the same music? Often, the answer to these questions are no! We live in a region bursting with cultural diversity from both recent immigrant populations to those who have lived in our community for generations.
Explore & More has a long-standing reputation for providing high quality, one-of-a-kind cultural programming in schools, community centers and at our Museum. This summer, thanks to the generous support of the New York State Council on the Arts and the Charles D. and Mary A. Bauer Foundation, Explore & More celebrated nine different cultures that help to make up the fabric of Buffalo! Each Wednesday in July and August, our programming staff highlighted a different culture including: India, China, Germany, Somalia, Italy, Poland, Myanmar (Burma), Yemen and Colombia. Every program featured cultural music or dance performances, food, language activities, and a unique art project. We worked directly with the members of these communities to accurately represent the featured cultures.
Our summer opened with a celebration of India featuring dance performances throughout the afternoon from Devi Bollywood Dance. Even our youngest visitors were up and moving as they learned some simple traditional dance moves. The fun continued throughout the summer with performances from The Red Dragon School of Martial Arts, ACCESS of WNY, Amor and Heritage and The Polish Heritage Dancers of WNY just to name a few.
In addition to performances, food, language, and art projects, each child that participated in Wander our World received a “Passport” for further exploration of the culture. Each child receives a passport which includes information on common object identification including translations, popular holiday celebrations in that culture, sports played, and other facts to inspire continued investigation into the culture.
We have known for years that our cultural programming is fun, engaging, and educational! This year we went even further and took an extensive review of how our programming impacts the cultural awareness of participants. Early findings have showed that after visitors participated in one of our Wander our World programs they were inspired to learn more about the culture presented. Additionally, a large portion of participants were unaware of these cultures in their own neighborhoods prior to our program. These preliminary results show the importance of continuing and growing this type of programming.
Buffalo is known as the City of Good Neighbors. Showcasing the diverse cultures in Western New York is just one way that Explore & More investigates what it means to be a good neighbor. Through programming like Wander our World, we are able to increase cultural awareness and acceptance within our community. Cultural programming and exhibits help to teach our young visitors not only what being a good neighbor means but also how each one of them can actually become a good neighbor!