Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Texas Czechs: Rooted in Tradition

Me and my baby... the Texas Czechs exhibit
at Museum of the Coastal Bend in Victoria.
Celebrate Czech Heritage Month with me! It's been over two months since my last blog post because, in the interim, my friend/co-curator  Lori Najvar and I finished and installed the exhibition we've been researching and designing for the last two years--Texas Czechs: Rooted in Tradition. What better way to announce it to my blog followers than on the first day of Czech Heritage Month in Texas.

Vic Patek and Friday's ruzicky (rosettes.)
The exhibition opened September 11th at the Museum of the Coastal Bend (MCB) in Victoria, Texas with a reception that featured Czech foods like kolaches, and sausage and sauerkraut. See photos of the event on PolkaWorks' Flickr account. In partnership with the Victoria County Chapter of the Czech Heritage Society of Texas, the exhibition will be on display until December 6th this year.

Though my passion is traditional food, Texas Czechs: Rooted in Tradition captures the full breadth of activities and traditions in the Texas Czech community in the 21st century. It's comprised of photo-montage panels, photographs, artifacts, and short documentary films shown in a multi-media “station.” The topics of the panels and films do include food, but also taroky, (a Czech card game), music, church picnics, language, community celebrations, food, Sokol, folk singing and more. Lori, the PolkaWorks team, and I traveled the state interviewing, researching, photographing, and filming people and events since fall 2012. No wonder we're worn out!

Tex-Czech-Mex panel discussion at MCB. Photo: Lori Najvar.
We are doing several programs for the public at MCB in conjunction with the exhibit. On the 18th, I moderated a panel discussion on local food traditions with Texas Czechs Vic Patek and Joe Janak and Mexican Americans Margaret and Mary Elizabeth Rubio. There were fascinating parallels and differences explored... from Catholicism's influence on Christmas eve dishes to butchering techniques. Vic Patek, who owns Friday's in Shiner, brought beautiful ruzicky for event attendees to sample (photo above). The icing-coated pastries (rosettes) are not Czech, but have been so adopted by the community that they're a staple at church picnics and family celebrations.

There are other public programs planned in conjunction with the exhibit, all free:

  • October 9 - Gather-Capture-Share: Documenting Family Stories in the Digital Age
  • November 6 - Texas Czech music program
  • December 6 - St.  Nicholas' Day Christmas program
Won't you celebrate Czech Heritage Month by going to see the exhibit? While in Victoria, we're displaying Alfred Vrazel's first accordion. That piece of Texas Czech musical history is worth seeing by itself! If you can't make it to Victoria, watch my blog or Twitter feed (@svacinaproject) for notice of where the exhibit will be next.

Panoramic of the exhibit at MCB. Photo: Dougal Cormie.
The exhibit is supported by Humanities Texas, KJT-Catholic Union of Texas, KJZT-Catholic Family Fraternal of Texas, and in Victoria by the Victoria County Czech Heritage Society, the Spoetzl Brewery, and MCB.