aimee suzanne kruse-ross | the neville now | dec. 2017
One of the newest exhibits at the Neville Public Museum Estamos Aquí — translation: “we are here" — features artifacts and personal stories from many Latino families living and working in Northeastern Wisconsin. It is through this study that we are able to embrace the diversity of different nationalities, making our city a more vibrant place to live, work and play.
This exhibit took nearly three years from conception to fruition and has many prominent features throughout the more than 3,000 square foot gallery.
“In this exhibit you'll see more than 30 faces that represent the Latino community," says the Neville's Deputy Director, Kevin Cullen. “Not just from here in Green Bay, but from all over Latin America as well. We used various forms throughout this exhibit to tell their stories by way of artifacts, interviews and video kiosks."
Visitors to the bi-lingual exhibit will first find themselves in a 24-by-14 foot shack, a replica of the original migrant-workers' shack that housed one of the very earliest Latino families to live in such a structure in Oconto County, the Saldaña family. That family consisted of 14 children along with their parents. The interior is sparsely furnished and contains the family's original refrigerator, worktable, meat grinder and tortilla maker. Work clothing hangs from simple wall hooks.
“The Latino community contributes so much to our economy," says Cullen. “For these people to actually take these jobs and do the work, these are things make vast contributions to our economy, not just for Green Bay, but for Wisconsin's dairy land as a whole."
Younger visitors will appreciate hands-on activities geared at engaging them in learning to speak simple Spanish phrases, playing with native musical instruments and even having a go at carrying a migrant child's day's harvest of cucumbers in a heavy burlap sack.
Luchadors, (wrestlers) are a Mexican cultural phenomenon embraced by the Latino community and visitors will find a section in the exhibit dedicated to the many other sports that this community enjoys, including soccer, baseball and even a modest game of dominoes.
Perhaps the most engaging and colorful part of the exhibit is that of the art gallery where the work of many notable Green Bay artists is displayed. Pottery, musical instruments, painted collages, carvings, as well as contemporary flat-weave tapestries are just a few of the many items currently on display.
Fine examples of hand-thrown red clay pottery as well as the painting and stylus tools used to create such works are artfully arranged in cases. Among these artifacts are intricately painted plates carved from various wood sources alongside colorful dishes and candlesticks that embrace many of the religious icons of the Latino community. Visitors will also see vibrant and colorful Day of the Dead figurines handmade from paper mache.
An intricate Peruvian altarpiece created by highly respected folk artist Nicario Jiménez Quispe is also part of this exhibit. Quispe hails from the village of Alcamenca in Peru, high in the Andes Mountains. His ornately carved mirror is decorated with dozens of colorful figures made from boiled potato and gypsum powder. Other work by Quispe is currently on display at the Smithsonian.
Two finely woven tapestries on display belong to Wence and Sandra Martinez, two of the leading textile artists in North America. They garnered national acclaim after their work was accepted and showcased at the prestigious Smithsonian Craft Show. Tapestry work keeps them directly connected to their Hispanic roots as one of their favorite wool spinners, an elderly woman living and working in Oaxaca, Mexico, cards and spins wool for them.
“These are the kinds of talents that are coming here, from all these diverse backgrounds with all levels of talent and education," says Cullen.
Visit Estamos Aqui at the Neville Public Museum now until April 29, 2018. For more information visit their website at nevillepublicmuseum.org.