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CLUES Launches Manualidades Cohort to uplift Latino cultures

This is a guest article from Aaron Johnson-Ortiz, Director of Arts & Cultural Engagement at CLUES.

On Tuesday, September 15, CLUES kicked off our “Manualidades” program, a Latino arts and crafts class for individuals and families to learn about traditional Latino art forms and to build community through the practice of our culture.

For our first class, our 20 students learned to make Alebrijes, which are traditional Mexican papier-mâché crafts featuring fantastical creatures. Renowned Minnesota-based puppeteer Gustavo Boada led this workshop.

In October, students will learn to make Day of the Dead Altars and traditional paper cempasúchil flowers with paper artist Flor Soto. November’s class will focus on drawing and composition with illustrator and multimedia artist Cadex Herrera. Finally, in December students will make piñatas for the holiday posadas with Flor Soto. In 2021, students will practice poetry, traditional weaving, and mosaic work.

Our first class coincided with the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month in the US (September 15 – October 15), which is closely aligned with Mexican Independence Day (September 16), and the Independence Days for 5 Central American countries (Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica on September 15), as well as Chile on September 18.

This week is also National Arts in Education week, and we are proud to bring culturally-specific arts education to a community setting.

In these difficult times, CLUES is proud to bring our community together by sharing and advancing our Latino cultural heritage. As the Director of Arts and Cultural Engagement, I am thrilled with the diversity and quality of our artist teachers – they are some of the most talented Latino artists in the state of Minnesota, and they are coming together to provide a wide range of culturally-rooted arts workshops to low-income Latino immigrant families.  Last Tuesday  was our first workshop, and our Manualidades participants were thrilled to learn new skills along with their children, to express their creativity, and to deepen their knowledge of our shared culture.

At CLUES, we believe that “La Cultura Cura” (culture heals), and our Manualidades program epitomizes this belief – by bringing our community together and by uplifting our culture, we will empower our Latino families and build power and resiliency in our community. 

As one of our participants told us after the class, “My daughters and I loved it. It was like letting our imaginations fly and to forget about the everyday. Thank you for bringing us these events that relieve us from the uncertainty that we are experiencing in these times."

**A note on social distancing – Our manualidades cohort will be held over zoom for the remainder of our classes.  Our first class was in person so that we could give participants a box with all of the materials they will need for the remainder of the year.  At this week’s workshop, we checked temperatures and provided participants with individual tables (or shared tables for families).  All participants wore masks. Hand sanitizer and bathrooms with hand washing stations were made available. Photos showing individuals in close proximity are of families. The workshop was held in two separate classrooms to keep each room to a max of 10 people. One participant (an elder) participated over zoom. We delivered a box of materials to her before the beginning of the class.


This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.  CLUES also receives support for our Arts & Cultural Engagement work from the Bush Foundation, the Knight Foundation, the St Paul & Minnesota Foundation, the Mardag Foundation, the Minnesota Humanities Center, and the Minnesota State Arts Board.


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