Poet Rhina P. Espaillat on The House of Seven Gables: Bringing Cultural Awareness Across Borders of Time and Place

Courtesy of poetryfoundation.org

I’d like to mention another cultural organization whose aims go beyond the stewardship and preservation of a national landmark to include service to the community: The House of the Seven Gables, one of the historical and literary jewels of Salem. Having been there years ago, I remembered it as a repository of wonderful artifacts that help to render the early history of New England palpable to those lucky enough to have a tour of the place. It’s full of items that illuminate the way people lived in 18th and 19th century Salem: how they cooked, served and entertained; what they wore and read; all the daily minutiae of real life, including some priceless gossip.

 

But during a recent visit I learned that the House now runs a series of Settlement Projects meant to reach, not just the community at large, but in particular the area’s growing population of immigrant young people from various cultures, who need all the help they can get to become part of their new country. The Settlement Projects reach out to children and teens through programs that feature music, dance, the visual arts, language and literacy training, as well as career and college preparation.

 

The newest program invites students to visit the House, use it as a resource for building familiarity with the period it represents, and goes on from there to explore how the past helps to create the present, and how it can teach us to shape the future. Those visits include a guided tour of the House, and an open-ended, informal Q & A session. Having once been cast as Mrs. Brewster in a play about the Puritans, at P. S. 94—not long after I had learned to speak English—I know how far such experiences can take the young mind toward empathy and a sense of belonging.

 

In addition, the House and its Settlement Programs sponsor a series of special events unrelated to the House itself, but intended to enlarge and build upon the growing cultural awareness of young people and foster their own creativity and desire to learn. For example, on February 21, at 7 p.m., the House is hosting a Melopoeia performance—a session of poems by various authors, including Federico Garcia Lorca—recited with a musical background. The performers—guitarist John Tavano, vocalist Ann Tucker, and two poets, Alfred Nicol and I—hope to interest the audience, which will include Spanish-speaking students and their families, in music, in poetry, in the history behind the poems, and in the use of the arts to convey personal experience.

 

For details, those interested may contact Ana Nuncio, at   anuncio@7gables.org   or Alan Collacchico, at   acollachico@7gables.org    There is also a website for directions and hours and other information:    www.7gables.org .  Since the Feb. 21 event is a fundraiser, there is an admission charge: $10 for members, $15 for non-members. Also, seating is limited, so those interested in attending should call to reserve seating: 1-978-744-0991, ext. 104. The address of the House of the Seven Gables is 115 Derby St., Salem, MA 01970. There is plenty of parking.

Read more about author Rhina P. Espaillat.

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  1. […] I’d like to mention another cultural organization whose aims go beyond the stewardship and preservation of a national landmark to include service to the community: The House of the Seven Gables, one of the historical and literary jewels of Salem. Having been there years ago, I remembered it as a repository of wonderful artifacts that help to render the early history of New England palpable to those lucky enough to have a tour of the place. It’s full of items that illuminate the way people lived in 18th and 19th century Salem: how they cooked, served and entertained; what they wore and read; all the daily minutiae of real life, including some priceless gossip. More… […]