Chelsea Public Library, in collaboration with Chelsea Recreation & Cultural Affairs, and the Harvard Museums of Science & Culture welcomed visitors to the “Take Your Place/ Toma Tu Lugar” artist reception on January 25 at the Chelsea Public Library. The presentation, on display through February, features collaborative artwork created by local, Latino teenagers.
“This exhibit is based on an installation at the museum that talked about the 1893 world’s fair in Chicago. Many cultures were represented; but it didn’t give voice to how they wanted to be represented,” explained Polly Hubbard, Education Program Manager, Peabody Museum of Archeology & Ethnology, Harvard Museums of Science & Culture. “Our teens responded strongly to this; and wanted to figure out a way to represent themselves in a way they would be proud of.”
“Take Your Place/ Toma Tu Lugar,” is a project funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. It is a two-sided piece in English and Spanish text. Decorated chairs depict how the young artists prefer to be defined; and on the opposite side, is an opportunity for Chelsea residents to list words or phrases that represent their cultural identity.
“They are responding to ways they have been treated as minorities in a majority culture. If you look closely, you can see themes of love, home, and traditions,” Hubbard described. “If I had to put my comments on there today, I might write: New Englander, feminist, French heritage. We hope that people will look at what the kids did, try to put themselves in their place, add comments to the exhibit, and have a conversation with family and friends.”
The project was created during Teen Saturdays at Harvard’s Peabody Museum, which offers monthly workshops for high-school age Latinos who are interested in culture and community. Bilingual sessions explore cultural identity through museum gallery visits. A series of activities also examine a sense of belonging, and how to contribute to the world in a positive way.
Teens from El Salvador, Mexico, Honduras, Brazil, and Peru spent three months building four exhibits, like the one on display at the Chelsea Public Library.
“The way I contributed is by showing how religion is a huge topic in the Hispanic/Latino community. I am not religious. It becomes a heavy topic if you are not part of that group, which is nonsense,” revealed 10th grade Guatemalan-American, Toj Villagran. “I put lips as a microphone because most people perceive us as loud. I don’t agree with that. Personally I am not at all. I am an introvert.”