Thursday, October 17, 2013

Programming for the Lao American community

One of the key issues an organization serving Lao Americans needs to address is how to create a robust programming model that meets their mission in a sustainable way. There are many dimensions to this process. Each state has its own strengths and talents. It would be hard to argue that at the moment any one state has a master of each and every one of the core Lao arts traditions in addition to emerging arts. This should be encouraging more communities to do arts and cultural exchanges with one another.

We see some states are only programming arts for the traditional Lao New Year and possibly Boun Phra Vet and a few other holidays. Others are successfully convening monthly performances, and in some states, we are seeing regular performances presented in multiple disciplines, especially the literary and visual arts.

I think there are a lot of positive things to be said for making an effort to provide programming connected to the corresponding animal year. I believe there are benefits to committing to at least 12 years to 24 years of providing children and emerging artists a chance to see how they would respond artistically to the different animals of Lao tradition.

I've spoken already at length of programming that can be done with the Year of the Horse: exploring the history, beliefs, science, and arts of the Lao related to the horse. From Manikab to trade routes of pre-colonial Laos to the present day. One could do similar work with the Year of the Monkey, or exploring the relationship of birds to Lao belief during the Year of the Rooster, from the Kinnaly to cooking shows about how to make a good ping gai.

If a community was committed to a rigorous curriculum of study, our Lao American youth could emerge with a fascinating education and body of knowledge from K-12, growing each year with greater skill and disciplines.

Monthly programming in the US also presents us some unique opportunities. Taking the forthcoming year of the Horse, for example, we might see a community present responses to the following:

April: Lao New Year of the horse begins. National Poetry Month readings.

May: Asian Pacific American Heritage Month performances.

June: Boun Phra Vet. High school graduation parties/award ceremonies.

July: American Independence Day. Dragonboat Festivals.

August: National Lao American Artists Heritage Month.

September: Back to school celebrations. Latin American History Month.

October: Lao American Halloween Parties and Filipino History Month.

November: National Novel Writing Month. Native American History Month. Veterans Day.

December: End of year holidays in multiple traditions.

January: European-American New Year. Martin Luther King Day.

February: Chinese and Vietnamese New Year. Valentine's Day. African American History Month.

March: Women's History Month.

This is only a partial list of opportunities where Lao artists and cultural organizations can be seeking out responsive programming that explores interesting intersections.

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