By Jake Munson
The dust is beginning to settle for the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center, hot off the latest entry in the Destination Series: Destination Venezuela. Amid a global pandemic, four art exhibits were featured in the heart of downtown Vicksburg during a grand opening of the event, accompanied by the delectable Venezuelan food truck from Sammy Arepas. Though the sun was covered by a cloudy sky, nearly 100 participants came together to light up the sidewalk of Oswalt Park with a variety of brightly colored chalk art designs, many of which celebrated the Venezuelan culture. Aside from the food truck, this entire event was free!
Along with the physical exhibits – with social distancing and mask policies enforced – the VCAC also had the opportunity to host several virtual events through Zoom, a video-conferencing program, which included a virtual poetry presentation, a “meet-and-greet” Q&A session with Rufus Snoddy, one of four featured artists, and a panel presentation and discussion about the Humanitarian Crisis in Venezuela.
In addition to the exhibits and online presentations, students from the Vicksburg High School Spanish and Advanced Placement Art programs participated in a field trip to experience Destination Venezuela. They visited the exhibits and interacted with two of the artists, Natalya Critchley and Héctor Fuenmayor. One of the most compelling parts of this field trip for many of the students was the Tattoo Art exhibit, with each featured design from Cicatriz Venezuela telling the difficult story of intense, personal experiences of life of those living in the current political and societal tumult of Venezuela. Sammy Arepas was able to return for the students to experience the Venezuelan flavors as well.
Students enjoyed this experience. Their feedback included these statements:
“It allowed for a small town to experience different cultures and struggles.” It immersed them “in another culture, and I like how we got to experience it.” What struck many students was “That this is happening right now and [nobody’s] really talking about it.”
With Destination Venezuela finishing out the scheduled programming for 2020, the VCAC has moved on to the next chapter with the decision by the Board to vacate the physical space and move to a virtual model for the time being. The VCAC Board will be spending the remainder of 2020 to develop and plan artistic and cultural opportunities for 2021 and beyond.
The organization is also looking for new board members who are passionate about arts and culture. More information about board leadership and the organization, readers can go to the VCAC website at vicksburgarts.com or call (269) 200-2223.
By Jake Munson