By Josette Keelor -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- Meeting the need of the community has inspired some creative changes at the Shenandoah Arts Council.
The gallery, at 811 S. Loudoun St., has long celebrated various groups of people through its wide range of programs, but only recently added Hispanic Heritage Month to its calendar of events.
"Lately the Spanish population has surpassed the black population," said Tracy Marlatt, executive director of the council. The council has observed Black History Month for years, and she began to wonder why it had not been celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.
"To build more awareness of our community together" is the council's goal in offering what it hopes will be an annual month of events, Marlatt says. The council was able to move forward with its plans after a grant from the Marion Park Lewis Foundation for the Arts, which -- according to its Web site, mplf-arts.org -- was established in 1992 to provide arts education opportunities to residents of the Northern Shenandoah Valley.
A reception from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday will feature a presentation by poet Wilfredo Bohórquez, author of "Immigrant Voices," at 3:30 p.m.
The gallery at the Shenandoah Arts Council will reflect the collective efforts of local children who recently participated in two separate art workshops in Winchester.
The workshops took place on Sept. 11 at the Boys and Girls Club at 598 N. Kent St. and on Sept. 19 at Bellview Apartments on Bellview Avenue. They provided children in the Hispanic community a chance to learn from experts and spotlight their artistic talents.
Since the council had never before offered the workshops to the Hispanic community, it began with the youth population.
"We thought working with children was a safe entree [to Hispanic Heritage Month]," Marlatt says.
Winchester artist Oscar Cerrito-Mendoza, who co-coordinated the efforts with local artist Jose Antonio Perez, attended the second workshop, helping the children realize their ideas in an artistic format, Marlatt says. At both workshops they worked with white painted tiles and doors, using the materials as a canvas.
"We're going to put up all of the artwork," Marlatt says of the 60 workshop participants' efforts.
The gallery will also spotlight the work of Cerrito-Mendoza, which reflects various artistic mediums -- charcoal drawing, acrylic paint and stippling with pens.
"This is the first time he's ever exhibited his work," Marlatt says.
Marlatt realized from the turnout that there's a real need for these types of programs in the community and hopes to continue Hispanic Heritage Month each year.
"It was just a great experience," she says. "It's just a small stone in a big pond, but I hope word will get out locally ... and that the [participation] grows for next year."
Providing an artistic release for the community's youths is not her only goal, though. After visiting with the residents at Bellview Apartments, Marlatt noticed a broken shell of a swing set, which is missing swings and a slide.
"Hopefully we can raise some money to get some swings there for those kids," she says.
A reception spotlighting the work of local artists will take place at the Shenandoah Arts Council, at 811 S. Loudoun St. in Winchester, from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Local author Wilfredo Bohórquez will give a presentation at 3:30 p.m. For more information, call 667-5166.