RISD LEADS - Bridging Cultures and Communities
Oct 12, 2016 by Annarose Zelano
On Monday, October 3rd, RISD LEADS welcomed Narragansett and Executive Director of Tomaquag Museum, Lorén M. Spears who gave a session on bridging cultures and communities together. This session used Lorén’s personal and professional experiences as an indigenous person working in the community as a case study on how to forge partnerships, networks, and collaborative opportunities in which diverse communities work together for the common good.
The session was started off with Lorén welcoming and introducing herself in her native language and giving attendees background information about her Narragansett Niantic culture and what she does with them. Lorén argued that although someone may be born into an indigenous background, it does not necessarily mean that they are born an indigenous storyteller with the tools and skills to teach and present about their culture to other people. As a part of her job as the Executive Director of the Tomaquag museum she teaches not only her staff on indigenous culture and how to share the story, but also her community partners.
It can be typical for museums to have partnerships with the surrounding communities, but what Lorén does differently is while they are helping other organizations and businesses with different projects or tasks, they are also working together teaching and informing them about their culture. This has helped the Tomaquag museum grow not only in size of staff, but also the amount of exposure and education to the outside community. Partnerships Lorén mentioned ranged from various non-profits, education based organizations, environmental organizations, and other cultural organizations.
Lorén ended the sessions with some key takeaways for when working with others from different cultures. One included learning multiple communication tools, as not everyone learns and thinks the same. She also mentioned that while you may be working with another organization it is just as important to think about what you can give to them as what you can get from them.