CCE collaboration with Tec Centro melds culture, art, and language

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Tuesday, June 18th, 2024

Learning a new language isn’t always the easiest task – but pairing it with a creative project? 

That can give the lessons a focus and a theme that ties languages and cultures together. 

That has been a focus of a successful partnership between the College’s Center for Creative Exploration (CCE) and Tec Centro East, a division of Lancaster’s Spanish American Civic Association, or SACA. Tec Centro is the primary provider of bilingual education and skills training in the area. 

We were strategic about inviting community members that are learning English AND community members who want to enhance their Spanish skills to the table,” said Salina Almanzar-Oree, CCE’s Assistant Director. “Using a creative project that is also culturally significant across many Latin American countries like the carnival mask or puppet making allowed us to break down barriers and find connections across cultures.” 

From early winter through late spring, CCE instructors worked with Tec Centro to immerse attendees in creativity-focused workshops such as mask-making, puppetry, collage, and poetry, using that creative force to build community and celebrate culture. 

Workshops such as plaster-wrap traditional Puerto Rican carnival masks, or vejigantes, and “Paint and Jam” sessions inspired by Salsa music, melded history with art. Both workshops were taught by Kathy Rodriguez, who says this combination makes both the history and the art more powerful. 

“When you combine art techniques with historical context, it enhances the power and significance of both the history and the art,” Rodriguez says. 

“It’s powerful because individuals have the ability to connect with the emotions and motivations of early artists and get to have a deeper understanding of cultural, social and personal influences that shaped the creation of their artwork. Not only does this approach enrich the class, it encourages learning, identity, and creates a greater appreciation and respect for history, art and artists.”

Likewise, dozens turned out for a March poetry workshop with Sir Dominique, lead artist of the Nobody’s Pen Poetry Collective and the Artivist Collective. He led a workshop on writing poetry, and Shores of Rico, a Puerto Rican brother-sister spoken word duo, headlined an open mic. 

In other sessions, Jose Guillermo Rodriguez Plaza and Maria Rene Veizaga led a puppet-making workshop that drew on Veizaga’s background in puppetry and shared the history of Latin American puppetry; Almanzar-Oree led a collage workshop with the daytime English language-learning class; Rodriguez Plaza led a group through bilingual theater games to practice both English and Spanish. 

I’m so excited that we were able to bring our programming to the community and this would not have been possible without the generous funding of the seed project,” said CCE’s Almanzar-Oree. “We have secured funding for another year of programming and look forward to relaunching classes in the Fall!”