Theresa Freed 0:00 On this episode, hear from Johnson County Museum and Arts and Heritage staff who will share details of the month-long celebration of Hispanic culture. Find out how you can appreciate the culture through art, literature, food and more. We'll also talk about how the museum continues to serve Johnson County through the pandemic and is offering virtual experiences to get your arts and exhibits fix.
Announcer 0:22 Whether you live in or just love Johnson County, Kansas, JoCo on the Go has everything Johnson County. Here's what's happening and what's coming up in the community you call home.
Theresa Freed 0:35 Thanks for joining us for JoCo on the Go, I'm your host Theresa Freed a Johnson County resident and employee of Johnson County government. Here today we are going to talk about Hispanic Heritage Month. We're right in the middle of it. And we have some great guests from Johnson County to discuss some of these traditions that we're going to be observing. So we'll start off with some introductions. If you guys can both introduce yourselves.
Susan Mong 0:57 Absolutely. I'm Susan Mong Superintendent of Culture. And it's a pleasure to be here.
Andrew Gustafson 1:00 I'm Andrew Gustafson. I'm the Curator of Interpretation for the Johnson County Museum.
Theresa Freed 1:04 And tell us a little bit about Hispanic Heritage Month.
Andrew Gustafson 1:07 Sure. So it's a month long celebration that runs from September 15 through October 15. To incorporate the independence days of several Latin American countries as well as Columbus Day. And in Johnson County, it's a chance to sort of recognize the long history and the achievements of Latino, the Latino community in Johnson County, and also celebrate the culture and food and music of that community.
Susan Mong 1:33 And it's our second annual celebration. We were able to do that in person last year. And it was really a beautiful community building event. And while we miss being able to do that this year, we're so happy as a staff to do what we can do to celebrate and reflect again, the the imprint and the stories and the celebrations of many in our community.
Theresa Freed 1:56 Can you talk a little bit about the ways that Johnson County celebrates just more specifically going into exhibits and things like that.
Andrew Gustafson 2:03 Sure. So this year, we have several facets to the celebration. as Susan said, last year, we had a great event and this year going virtual we're able to celebrate all month long. And so we have two keynote programs, one on October 8, it's the poet laureate of Kansas, Huascar Medina, he'll be giving a presentation called 'Our Voices Ring True' about the power of poetry, and on October 15 Arts in the 21st century, a documentary series called Borderlands that will be a celebration of Latino art along the Borderlands. And that'll be a program both those programs are free, actually. But you didn't need to register for them. So make sure you do that ahead of those programs.
Susan Mong 2:46 I'm also proud to share that we are also highlighting members of our community that are doing really amazing things not only here in Johnson County, but nationally. And so we will have three video highlights of three such individuals. The first one is Angela Cervantes. She is the author of the junior novel Coco, which we all know of course, from Disney and Pixar. We're so privileged to have her join us and share a little bit about her journey as a writer and again, she lives right here in Johnson County.
Theresa Freed 3:17 And here's just a little bit of that Facebook video with award winning Johnson County author Angela Cervantes talking about the experience writing for Disney.
Angela Cervantes 3:25 So I was just at my home writing another story when I got an email from Disney worldwide and they asked me if I was interested in working on this special book with them that was going to accompany this movie all about Dia de los Muertos. And I was super excited because I love Dia de los Muertos. I know this holiday, I have grown up celebrating this holiday almost every year. So I was very excited. And I said yes, I will work on it. So it took me three months to work on this. That was a deadline given to me. And once I was done, I actually got to go to the big Hollywood premiere. That was super cool. I got to meet all the producers, some of the actors, and I got to walk on the red carpet except the red carpet wasn't a red carpet. The red carpet was made out of orange marigold petals. It was amazing.
Theresa Freed 4:17 And we'll have a link to that full video in the show notes of this episode.
Susan Mong 4:21 And we have Erik Erazo, who is an educator with the Olathe school district and he has partnered with the Olathe Police Department on an amazing leadership development program for Latino youth. And it is really inspirational and I look forward to sharing his story with with our community. And then last but not least, we have Xánath Caraza who is nationally known as an author, a poet and an artist, and she is going to feature in her video. The preparation and the artistic display of Dio de los Muertos Which is a day of the dead and that is celebrated on November 1 in many Latino traditions and so she's going to demonstrate that for us. And I just want to say that the Latino community is really part of the DNA of Johnson County. And we we are excited to share a few of these stories and continue to collect more, because we know there's been a lot of impact and stories untold. today.
Theresa Freed 5:25 The Board of County Commissioners also is honoring Hispanic Heritage Month. Here's a portion of the September 10 commission meeting where Erik Erazo accepted a proclamation.
Ed Eilert 5:35 In recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15. And I'm going to ask Erik Erazo to come to the podium. Just a little information about Erik, he is an employee of the Olathe School District, Erik came to Olathe from California where he grew up and served in the Army, went to work at the Olathe school district in security. And I understand was motivated by his association with students to receive a bachelor's and master's degree in education. And he's very, very active in the school district's diversity program. He's also very active in the community, a member of the Olathe Latino Leadership Network. And Erik also serves on the Criminal Justice Advisory Council for Johnson County.
Erik Erazo 6:43 As a Hispanic educator, active community member and Army veteran. I'm honored to be here today. I would like to accept this proclamation on behalf of the Department of Diversity and Engagement for Olathe public school district, where I have had the opportunity to serve the Hispanic community for the last 16 years. This is an extreme honor. I would like to send a special thank you to the Olathe Latino Leadership Network, the Johnson County Latino Leadership Network, to Bienvenidos KC, formerly known as the Olathe Latino Coalition, to El Centro, the Olathe Police Department and UCS for all the great work they do for the Hispanic community. I also want to say thank you to the Johnson County Commissioners for making this possible and showing the Hispanic community our presence is valued here in Olathe. In such a diverse community is important to continue to highlight the great work of all the different populations that make this county unique. Thank you.
Ed Eilert 7:35 Well, Erik, thank you very much.
Theresa Freed 7:37 It seems right now kind of cultural diversity is taking center stage as we talk about our differences and our sameness. And so how is that kind of being incorporated into promoting some of these activities that are happening?
Andrew Gustafson 7:51 That's a great question. If I can, I'd say there were you're seeing some of that on social media, actually, through the museum and the Arts and Heritage Center. Two initiatives that we have one is called JoCo takeout challenge the hashtag. And so we're promoting Latino-owned restaurants in Johnson County and sharing their story really encouraging people to try the food at the restaurant, connect with that culture, I think food is probably the easiest way to connect with a new culture, a new experience. And so that's I think, has been really popular on social media. We're also from the museum sharing stories that we've collected through the Latino collecting. And if, if we started this last year, to reach out into the Latino community, we want to tell a fuller, richer Johnson County history, a more complete picture. And so the Latino community has to be a part of that picture. Obviously, it's a historic community. There's so many incredible stories, families and businesses and things that have happened in Johnson County. So every Friday, the museum is sharing some of the new stories, new photographs, new objects that have been added to the collection over the past year.
Theresa Freed 8:56 That's great.
Susan Mong 8:57 And we're we're so proud to have Andrew and lucky to have him leading that effort. And I also just want to mention, too, that in the last couple of years, and I know Andrew mentioned this in a previous interview, but Overland Park was actually rated in the top 25 places for Latinos to start a business. And so I think that we have a really amazing foundation and a lot of economic activity already happening here. And so again, it's really about celebrating a part of our community that's always been there and always been contributing, and just highlighting that a little bit more,
Theresa Freed 9:34 Especially in a virtual environment, you know, exploring those different ways to appreciate the culture is really, really neat.
Susan Mong 9:43 And I want to say a word about that because I of course, don't have a Latino background. And I wanted to share that what we feel like is a strength to our approach and what is really critical to our efforts for this year's event and those going forward is our partners. You know, we want to make sure that we're representing the Latino community in a way that is authentic, that is diverse. the Latino community is extremely diverse. And someone that is from Argentina has a very different cultural makeup than someone from Cuba or Mexico or Colombia. So we want to make sure that we're authentically representing that and we need to bring those partners to the table. And we're really thankful for those that are alongside us in that journey.
Andrew Gustafson 10:29 Yeah, absolutely. And I think that's probably one of the the biggest misconceptions about the Latino community, not just in Johnson County, but across the country is the history, you know, the long history of Latinos across the country. And then of course, in Johnson County, going back to the Santa Fe Trail, and early 1900s railroad laborers and meatpacking industry, and then, of course, more recent immigrants from South and Central America. But it is such a diverse story to tell, and then so many different experiences to be able to share with others in the county.
Theresa Freed 11:05 You talked about just being authentic with with this celebration. And can you talk about how you've been able to do that, especially in a virtual environment.
Susan Mong 11:16 Again, I think that really speaks back to our partners that have been a part of the planning process and a part of curating, and really, the things that we want to bring to our audience that are virtual friendly, so to speak. Some things that we were going to miss this year are sort of that encounter with dance, for example, or we had a live painter last year. And so we look forward to resuming some of those experiences next year. But the goal this year was, again to bring those partners to the table and make sure that we were doing again, what we can do to authentically and in an honoring way and reflect the traditions and beautiful cultures.
Andrew Gustafson 11:58 One thing we didn't mention. You know, we talked a bit about virtual programming and things to follow on social media. Last year, the museum created digital exhibit, it's bilingual, it's called Latinos in the Heartland or Latinos en El Corazon de los Estados Unidos. And we actually uploaded that to the website. So if you go to JCPRD.com/virtualmuseum, you'll find a digital exhibit category. And you can check out that exhibit there and learn about the history of Latinos in Johnson County. It's an overview certainly, there's some several, several great stories shared in there. But it gives you a sense sort of, of that long history that we keep we keep mentioning.
Theresa Freed 12:34 That's great. And I do want to talk a little bit to about just the way that you guys are still serving the public. I know with with COVID. It's it's been challenging. And I know that there were limited hours and things like that at the beginning, can you talk a little bit about how Johnson County can still access the resources that you guys provide?
Susan Mong 12:54 So we will all start by just saying that our building is open to the public. Both our museum staff and our fine art staff have done a beautiful job of really listening to the community and creating a way for the community to react and share what their experience has been through this difficult time. And so our art exhibition space right now features, gosh, over 55 artists that provided again, that visual sort of response. It's beautiful, it's emotional, it's moving. So I encourage the public to come and view that it's free to the public there. And then I'll let Andrew to talk a little bit about the amazing response that our museum had in a very short order to also reflect what's going on in our community.
Andrew Gustafson 13:43 Yeah. So during sort of the very height of the beginning of the pandemic, I guess, working from home, and we worked in six weeks, were able to create an exhibit called Rising to the Challenge. And it occupies a space up in the commons area here in the building free to the public, whenever the building is open. And it really looks at past areas of difficulty, whether it was economic or war, disease or personal tragedy, natural disasters, and really how the community responded to that through innovation, adaptation, sacrifice, strength and resilience. And then, you know, remembrance and coming together to get through it. And looking at those examples from the past to hopefully provide some inspiration and some context to the era that we're, we're still in so. And then of course, the rest of the museum is open as well. Right now we have a Coney Island exhibit through the middle of October, October 17. And we'll be opening opening a quilt exhibit on November 7. So there are still ways to engage here in the building in the exhibit space for the museum. And then lots of ways to engage online through the social media content that we post almost daily. The virtual content we've mentioned here and then also jocohistory.org. It's a collaborative website, lots of historical Images, maps, newspapers and magazines. So lots of things to explore online if you're more comfortable hanging out at home for now, too.
Susan Mong 15:08 And then I have to just mention as well that we have tried to bring culture into our outdoor spaces. Of course, we're part of the park and recreation family. And so one of the partnerships we were able to form is with the Kansas City Symphony, so we have 14 different performances and seven different parks. And information on everything we've talked about is on jcprd.com by the way to see all the Hispanic Heritage Month offerings as well as the symphony concerts as well. So for those that want to get out into the outdoors, we encourage you to encounter culture there and we'd love to see the public in those spaces.
Theresa Freed 15:43 All right, thank you so much. And thanks for listening.
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