Art across cultures at Small World Coffee Hour at Weisman Art Museum

Hosting their “Art” day at the Weisman Art Museum, the organization brought students together to celebrate cultural differences through art.

Event goers place their pieces of paper on a tree at Weisman Art Museum Friday, Nov. 3.

Image by Max Ostenso

Event goers place their pieces of paper on a tree at Weisman Art Museum Friday, Nov. 3.

by Kate Drakulic

Henna, Bollywood, ink paintings and jazz — the theme of Friday afternoon was art. 

As part of their weekly meetings, Small World Coffee Hour hosted a special event in collaboration with the Weisman Art Museum and a handful of student groups to celebrate what art represents across cultures.

The University of Minnesota Jazz Club, looking sharp in suits and ties, blared their horns as people trickled in. Students wrote their names and favorite colors on a name tag, a SWCH meeting norm, and sipped on hot tea and coffee while they greeted each other.

Participating student groups included Indian Bollywood group Jazba Entertainment, the Pakistani Student Association and the Russian Speaking Student Association. Each of the groups occupied a table and gave small, informational presentations about art in their cultures.

“I try to learn about different cultures and tell people about my culture and where I came from,” said Valeria Voloshyna, senior finance and management information systems major at Carlson. 

Voloshyna joined the Russian Speaking Student Association when she was a freshman. She’s currently the president of the group. 

“We do things like watch movies, play card games and share what Russian culture is like. We [also] have weekly meetings and bigger events where we celebrate the holidays,” Voloshyna said.

As the afternoon commenced, students snacked on Chinese food and toured WAM’s recently installed exhibition, “Jizi: Journey of the Spirit.” 

The exhibit, which comprises large ink paintings that resemble landscapes, speaks to religion and traditional Chinese culture. The grand size of the works question and suggest the presence of a universal spirit.

 Friday’s event and activities were coordinated by senior chemistry major Mazen Elsaid. Born in Egypt, he initially joined SWCH because of the comfortable interactions and welcoming environment of group meetings.

“[Cultural learning] is very important because it helps people build intercultural experience,” he said. “We’re trying to build tolerance for different opinions and backgrounds that people are going to be experiencing in the future.”

Not only does SWCH work to build tolerance, it also creates a space for both international and domestic students to have safe conversations and experiences. SWCH meets every week on Friday afternoons. 

“From the data that we’re collecting in [International Student and Scholar Services], we noticed that international students come here and identify that it’s a challenge meeting friends that aren’t international students,” said Alex Cleberg, intercultural trainer and SWCH staff advisor. 

“We strive for consistency because consistency creates safety … students [at SWCH] can go outside their bubble, meet someone new and have an authentic conversation about differences and how those differences matter.”