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SCOW, local artist’s community  art project promotes diversity

WALLINGFORD — Looking to participate in a fun and easy community-based art project while reflecting on the Hispanic roots of the town?

The Spanish Community of Wallingford, located on 284 Washington St., and local artist Rashmi Talpade are collaborating on a “Rooted in Art” community photo collage project that began Feb. 1.

Anyone in the local community can participate by stopping at SCOW every Wednesday and gluing down a piece of paper to create a collage that will eventually showcase Wallingford’s diversity. 

“Everyone is welcome to participate in this project,” said Adriana Rodríguez, the executive director of SCOW. “I'm looking forward to seeing people from the community of all ages and backgrounds learn about SCOW and learn about the project. I'm looking forward to working with Rashmi, who is absolutely amazing and has all this experience, but also, I'm looking forward to seeing the end results.”

To add to the collage, residents are encouraged to submit old photos of their home country and memories from their time there.

“I want to create this community collaborative collage project so people can feel that their new adopted homeland is accepting of them from their roots rather than have them assimilate and become what we are here,” Talpade said. 

Talpade, who is originally from India, said it’s equally important for an immigrant to acknowledge where they are now while still remembering where they came from. 

“I am very much attached to my roots in India but I find America, my adopted homeland, to be my home,” Talpade said. “I want that harmony between the two cultures that an immigrant should have, so I’m hoping this collage will highlight that.”

Rodríguez said that this is a great opportunity for members of the town to not only get creative, but for the Hispanic and Latino populations to showcase where they come from. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 12.9% of the Wallingford population is Hispanic or Latino, the second largest group in the town’s population. 

“I think as the pictures come in, we're going to really get to see the representation of Wallingford where our numbers are from and really their roots, being from different countries or even from Wallingford,” Rodríguez said. “I think it's just very creative. With Rashmi’s guidance, everyone will be able to participate and feel like artists themselves.”

Underrepresentedcommunities welcome

Talpade began this project at the Wallingford Public Library in 2016. Back then, participants were encouraged to send in photographs of Wallingford. Collectively, around 800 photographs were collected, and residents used those photos to create a collage depicting the town. Several panels of the collage are still on display in the library today.  She wanted to bring the project back to SCOW because she noticed there was little participation during the first project from the non-English speaking and underrepresented communities.

“There were a few, but not enough,” she said. 

When Talpade received an Artists Corps Grant from the New Haven Arts Council to continue this project with SCOW, she knew she wanted to include in the collage pictures of places where people came from, like Puerto Rico, Ecuador and Brazil, to name a few. The collage will be displayed at SCOW when it’s completed in the coming months.

“I'm an artist. I am not a leader. I'm not somebody who can drive people to influence people to do things, but I mean, the only thing I'm really good at is art. Right? So that is the only way I can get any message across. And I feel that the diversity and the celebration of the differences in different people is the time to highlight it and celebrate it,” Talpade said.

Along with promoting Wallingford’s diversity through art, another of the project’s objectives is to bring together people from a wide array of backgrounds.

“People can really talk to each other. They can communicate. They can exchange stories, people who normally wouldn't cross paths, different age groups, people have different abilities, people of different nationalities, different languages,” Talpade said. 

Though Talpade is not fluent in Spanish, the members of SCOW are more then willing to help translate for their Spanish-speaking patrons. Talpade said that she’s also able to communicate and bond with participants of different backgrounds through simple hand gestures and even a smile. 

Anyone can participate in the photo project by submitting their photos to sgarcia@scowinc.org or bringing them to SCOW to scan and email if assistance is needed. 


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