Led by ceramicist and musician Samuel Becerra, the classes were offered for small groups over several weekends for Covid safety. Over 50 students from age 6 to grandparents signed up to participate, often together as a family. Students sculpted small bird-shaped flutes from terra cotta clay, then painted the flutes after they were fired in the kiln. “I can’t believe I made this!” one student exclaimed as she added the finishing touches to her flute.
With the disruption of the pandemic, CIELO staff estimated that these workshops have been the first local arts experience offered for Spanish-speaking community members in several years. Even as CIELO staff have been incredibly busy with recent vaccination drives for the Latino community, they have prioritized this project as another essential service for their clients. “I support this activity 100%,” CIELO Executive Director Julio Rios shared.
Artist Samuel Becerra, born and raised in Mexico City, studied music at the G. Martell School of Music and has performed with premier regional Latin music groups such as Grupo Condor, Caliente, and Son Melao. Samuel has taught art and music in schools, libraries, and community centers across the Pacific Northwest, with a focus on flutes and the music of Central America before Columbus.
As he led students at Arbutus in crafting their flutes, he also shared with them his wide knowledge of the history, technology, music, and art of indigenous cultures of Mexico, and helped students incorporate traditional designs into their creations. “I like this ceramics class, especially when the instructor introduced the history,” one student shared. “I learned the story behind the art,” added another.
When students took their flutes home, many shared how much they enjoyed the classes and asked whether there would be more. “I love the class. Thank you so much for the opportunity to learn how to create this piece of art. I am looking forward to see more workshops like this one,” one student wrote in a note.
Arbutus Folk School Executive Director Hillary Tully is making plans for continued Spanish-language programming at Arbutus in the future. “There is a huge need for more arts and cultural experiences in our community, especially activities that are more accessible in language, cost, and location. Arbutus Folk School is working to meet these needs, so if you can help support, please reach out!” For this goal, the School’s greatest needs are Spanish-speaking volunteers, Spanish-speaking arts instructors, and donations from the community to keep classes free.
“We are so honored to be able to support the rich diversity in our community in such a creative and thoughtful way,” said Ryan Betz, VP Marketing & Public Relations with OlyFed. “The workshop partnership between Arbutus Folk School and CIELO is a great example of community collaboration to deliver a hands-on education experience that builds relationships, while furthering the power of the arts and cultural traditions in Thurston County.”
Thank you for your support of these wonderful classes!