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Though still virtual, Common Ground on the Hill ‘Tradition Weeks’ offers opportunities to learn of other cultures

Every July since 1995, McDaniel College has opened its campus to classes, concerts, dances and galleries rooted in traditions as part of Common Ground on the Hill’s “Traditions Weeks.”

These programs and workshops have become a ritual in its own way — an opportunity for participants to learn and appreciate other cultures, especially from Black, Indigenous and people of color.

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Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic — and the lockdown it triggered — led to the first time “Traditions Weeks” was held fully virtual. The online event didn’t match previous attendance in numbers, executive director Walt Michael said. But he noticed there was a big draw for the event.

People wanted to be together in the midst of art and music, he said. It brought a real sense of community.

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This year, the event, which starts Monday, will continue to be online. Organizers didn’t know enough about what this summer would be like in terms of COVID-19 when they were planning the weeks, Michael said.

But there are some silver linings in a fully-online event, Michael said. One of them is the breadth and richness of artists who will participate in the experience. Rather than crossing oceans, people will only have to turn on their laptop to share what they love about their culture.

There are more than 200 classes to chose from in the organization’s website, Michael said, touching on mandolin, hammered dulcimer and piano lessons, the Ukrainian art of decorating eggs and an exploration of the power of music in the Civil Rights era — just in the first week.

The following weeks will also have classes on songwriting, splint woven basketry, iPhone photography and story telling.

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Those interested in taking a virtual class can enroll online at the organization’s website. The program and workshops will run from June 28 to July 16 on Mondays and Fridays. Each class lasts 75 minutes and costs $100 to attend.

Besides classes, there will be evening events, including keynote addresses, gallery talks and concerts, which will be free and livestreamed on YouTube.

This year’s first keynote address features AnaCe Velasquez and Patricia Rodriguez, artisans from Bolivia. They will speak on what their crafts means for sustainability in their communities, from the Andes to the Amazon. Their address will be livestreamed on YouTube on June 28 at 8 p.m.

Dr. Richard Smith, an associate professor of sociology at McDaniel College, will also deliver an address on the concept of colonization and the importance of being a decolonizer. He will be the second keynote speaker, set to talk July 5 at 8 p.m.

In the third and final keynote address, Harvard University professor David Carrasco and Appalachian artists Ellen and Don Elmes meet to discuss a project in response to the 2019 El Paso shooting, known as the deadliest attack against Latinos in recent years.

Dr. Richard Smith, left, speaks during the class, Listen for Common Ground, while he sits next to founder and executive director of Common Ground on the Hill Walt Michael in McDaniel Lounge at Common Ground on the Hill at McDaniel College on Monday, June 25, 2018.
Dr. Richard Smith, left, speaks during the class, Listen for Common Ground, while he sits next to founder and executive director of Common Ground on the Hill Walt Michael in McDaniel Lounge at Common Ground on the Hill at McDaniel College on Monday, June 25, 2018. (Jen Rynda / BSMG)

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