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'A Celebration of Vietnamese New Year Traditions' at Castellani Art Museum

by jmaloni


Sat, Jan 17th 2015 10:45 am

The Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University hosts "A Celebration of Vietnamese New Year Traditions" at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 1.

This event kicks off the Castellani's Spring Folk Arts Series. The Feb. 1 event offers people a chance to experience the culture and fun of the Vietnamese New Year, otherwise known as Tết. Visitors will experience lion dancers, the graceful Lotus Dance Group, traditional foods, games, demonstrations, and other activities.

Tết, the most important celebration of the Vietnamese year, celebrates the arrival of spring. During Tết, Vietnamese visit their relatives and temples, relax and look forward to starting a new year.

CAM Interim Curator of Folk Arts Valerie Walawender has been working closely with organizers Stacey Dinh and Vu Le, who both attend the State University of New York at Buffalo. Dinh is a nursing student and president of the Vietnamese Student Club. Vu Le is an electrical engineering student and club vice president.

Dinh said, "Both of my parents were born and raised in Vietnam. Their dads were American soldiers during the Vietnam War. (Normally) we don't have much contact with the (Vietnamese) culture. At New Year's, it is a time we can come together and talk about our culture. The symbolism has to do with starting fresh and getting closer to family. The family takes off the whole week."

She added, "Our Vietnamese New Year celebration involves a lot of food. ... My extended family usually go to the temple. They have a lot of egg and meat dishes."

One custom includes offering happy greetings to each other and giving away red envelopes, or "li xi," as a way to wish prosperity for the new year. Dinh said, "Older family members hand you the red envelope. You're supposed to wish them good fortune, good health and longevity."

The celebration begins with its traditions days before Tết. Vu Le said, "In Vietnam, it's 'way' traditional. They clean house, buy flowers, buy new clothes, throw out old things. ... You pay all debts."

Tommy Le, leader of the Lion Dancers at the Tu Hieu Buddhist Cultural Center, said, "My family and I started to immigrate to the U.S. In 1989. I didn't know there was a Buddhist community in Buffalo. A few years later I met ... the head monk at the temple. (I said) 'Let's get something together to promote our culture.' (The current group) started five years ago. I was the one who brought it back. ... Lion dance (is done on) special occasions: weddings, birthdays, anniversaries. ... (It's) the way to scare bad luck away and bring good luck."

Admission to events and workshops is free for all students with ID cards and museum members. It's $10 for the general public. Membership sign-up is available at the event. For more information, call the Castellani Art Museum at 716-286-8200 or contact Walawender at [email protected].

This event is made possible by the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Castellani Art Museum 2015 Spring Folk Arts Series

In conjunction with the 2015 Spring Folk Arts events, the Castellani Art Museum is offering a series of hands-on workshops featuring folk artists and their traditional art forms. The upcoming events include celebrations of Irish dance and Balkan music

The workshop series includes distinguished local folk artists who will demonstrate and teach participants how to create Victorian valentines; Ukrainian pysanki (traditionally decorated eggs); Polish palm-weaving; traditional Polish cut-paper decorations and Norwegian rosemaling (decorative folk painting). 

Admission to events and workshops is free for all students with ID cards and museum members. It's $10 for the general public. Membership sign-up is available at each event and workshop. Pre-registration is required for all workshops. To pre-register, call the Castellani Art Museum at 716 286-8200. For more information, contact Walawender at [email protected].

All-ages series events begin at 2 p.m. and are open to the public. The schedule includes:

Sunday, March 8: A Celebration of Irish Dance, Music & Merriment

At this spirited gathering, audience members will be invited to learn and join in traditional dances such as céilí, set, step and sean nos. Event high points include a talk on the history and practice of traditional Irish music and dance by Bridget English, event organizer and branch chairperson of Comhaltas (an international organization dedicated to the preservation and proliferation of Irish culture); a musical performance on the "button accordion" by Ted McGraw, chair of the archive committee of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann and creator, host and producer of "Irish Party House" and "Ol' Fiddler" weekly radio programs; and performances by Stephanie Benson, Irish fiddler and her husband, Tim Benson, maker and player of Irish Uilleann pipes, a traditional instrument.

Sunday, April 19: A Celebration of Balkan Traditions

This event shines a spotlight on Orkestar Sokoli, an authentic Serbian Tambura band originally from Lackawanna. Sokoli has performed together for more than 25 years, and has traveled the U.S. performing Serbian music at cultural events including concerts, dances, festivals and weddings. Band members include Michael Miskuly (violin) Jimmy Raditic (bugarija), Bozhi Ranic (cello brac) and Mark Vranjes (bass). In addition to these offerings will be displays and demonstrations of traditional arts and foods available to sample.

Folk arts workshops at the museum include:

•Sunday, Feb. 8: Victorian Valentines, (2-4 p.m., for ages 13 to adult)

Master textile arts artisan Stephanie Drehs will present this unique hands-on workshop on the creation of Victorian valentines sewn with traditional embroidery and beadwork.

March 1: Traditional Ukrainian Pysanki (decorated eggs),(2-5 p.m., for ages 13 to adult)

Ukrainian Irene Grassman will teach traditional pysanki (eggs decorated using a wax-resistant technique) highlighting different traditional Ukrainian designs, symbols and techniques.

March 15: Polish Palm-weaving,(2-4 p.m., for ages 13 to adult)

The Rev. Czeslaw Krysa, who was awarded the Polish Ministry of Culture Heritage Award, will lead a workshop on the traditional art of Polish Palm weaving, beliefs and culture.

March 22: Traditional Polish Wycinanki (decorative cut-paper), (2-4 p.m., for ages 13 to adult)

Polish-American folk artist Barbara Frackiewicz will show workshop participants how to make wycinanki, Polish cut-paper in the creation of a traditional floral garden design.

April 26: Norwegian Rosemaling (traditional decorative folk painting), (2-5 p.m., for ages 10 to adult)

Dorothy Levin and Berit Bernacci are both skilled and acclaimed artisans in traditional rosemaling, a form of Norwegian folk painting. The instructors will demonstrate strokes and flourishes to help participants achieve an intricate and beautiful result.

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