Nelly Aranda Sanchez is one of NJ's Diversity in Arts Leadership Interns working with WheatonArts and the Down Jersey Folklife Center
Reflections and Expressions

Nelly Sanchez (they/them/their) was one of this summer's Diversity in Arts Leadership interns in the Southern New Jersey cohort and applied their skills as a multifaceted graphic designer, photographer, and programmer to projects at the Down Jersey Folklife Center. Nelly describes their excitement with working with the folklife center, “... It has allowed me to understand how communities have adjusted and redeveloped.” In this issue of Passing It On, we caught up with Nelly and the Down Jersey Folklife Center director, Iveta Pirgova, to find out more about the robust work of the center and Nelly's contribution to an exciting upcoming project.

The Down Jersey Folklife Center is housed within South Jersey’s internationally recognized Wheaton Arts and Cultural Center; an arts village dedicated to supporting a thriving community of artists and so much more. This is the site of Iveta's work which brings to the forefront the identities of people from the multicultural communities living in the region. Through culminating exhibitions, performances, and other events, both in-person and virtual, she curates experiences for visitors to step outside of their own version of normal and appreciate different cultural perspectives, while perhaps deepening their own. "Reflections and Expressions" is the Center's most recent embodiment of that value.

Opening this fall, "Maya Traje: A Tradition in Transition" is a major exhibition featuring some of the finest Guatemalan fiber arts. In this enchanting collection, you will see “old” and “new” techniques collide as weaving and embroidery masters preserve and transform tradition to showcase Mayan living and multi-cultural identities in America. The exhibit will open September 25th from 4 pm - 6 pm and will include performances by traditional spiritual elder Genaro Jacinto Calel, master weaver Julia Sánchez, and musical group Marimba Maya AWAL.

Continuing to explore Mayan tradition and culture, the Folklife Center will be hosting two workshops led by Master Guatemalan artist, Unaldo Sánchez. The first will be a two-day feature in which participants can create a sawdust carpet, exploring the stories of Ixchel, Goddess of the moon and Mayan people in traditional regional garments. The second workshop will emphasize the rhythmic heartbeat behind Latin and World music - the maraca! Aiding in bringing in talented artists, such as the ones instructing these workshops, Nelly has been able to expand their horizon on Mayan culture and foster spaces of inspiration for the South Jersey community. In our conversation, Nelly touches on their contribution to this project and the opportunity to work with Iveta.