Themes Across Cultures

A banner for Themes Across Cultures. Three images, from left to right: “Ancestors” Mexican Mask, artist unknown, Mayan, Yucatan. Carved and painted colorín wood. Collection of Magdalena Hinkova (left). “Krishna” (Avatar of Vishnu), Indian woodcarving, mid 18th c. Depicts deity of love, tenderness. Collection of Frederick Kramer (center). “Star of Davut” Doily, Ylvia Asal, 2002. Anatolian needle lace; floral motif (right).
Down Jersey Folklife Center, WheatonArts logo, presented by New Jersey State Council on the Arts.

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This exhibit explores commonly shared topics among South Jersey cultures, such as beliefs, stories, legends, rituals, and occupational traditions. Interpreted through objects, archives, and educational programs are three major themes: 

1. Becoming Someone Else – the use of masks in rituals and celebrations of various cultures.

2. Learning from a Master – featuring South Jersey artists who have participated in the Folk Art Apprenticeship Program of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts

3. Behind the Story – exploring how legends, stories, and beliefs of these diverse communities become visualized in artworks. 

The displays allow for a comparison of meanings, symbolism, and creative techniques, making the realization that uniqueness is very often just a specific cultural interpretation of commonly shared ideas and values, thus providing for inter-cultural dialogue. Similarities and differences in the artistic expressions related to the exhibition’s general topics are made explicit so that we can identify elements associated with our own cultures, beliefs, traditions, aesthetics, and artistry. 

The exhibition reflects our region’s extremely diverse community and aims to bring together artists and audiences of multiple cultural backgrounds in shared artistic experiences. It is our goal to interpret the works of folk and traditional artists in the context of South Jersey’s cultural landscape and to involve viewers of various cultural groups in a meaningful dialogue about art and life, past and present, aesthetics and spirituality, diversity and unity in the context of our multi-cultural society. Extensions of the exhibit include educational activities, on-site projects, video screenings, and round table discussions.

Becoming Someone Else

Becoming Someone Else

Take a look into the exhibit’s first theme

Learning from a Master

Learning from a Master

Take a look into the exhibit’s second theme

Behind the Story

Behind the Story

Take a look into the exhibit’s third theme

To enhance the exhibit experience, long-term artist residencies, workshops and classes lead by artists who have mastered their skills in different traditional arts are scheduled. These experiences will help to provide a deeper engagement with the creative process and a better understanding of the meanings and relevance that each art form carries for the culture it represents. Special activities for visiting teachers and students are also part of the exhibition’s programming.

Explore each of the exhibit’s themes by hovering over the images above. 

Themes Across Cultures is a project of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts
and the Down Jersey Folklife Center at WheatonArts. Additional support for this exhibition has been provided by the Cumberland County Cultural and Heritage Commission.

New Jersey State Council on the Arts Logo          Cumberland County Cultural and Heritage Logo