Celebrating community with art the week of Martin Luther King Day

Submission by Atara Melo
Communities members are invited to contribute to the art project at A Melo Place in Mount Shasta through January.

“It takes a village to raise a child,” so the saying goes. How much richer is the child who is raised in a village of diverse interests, cultures and histories!

It is my belief that we build a stronger community for ourselves, our children and generations down the road when we dare step out of the fortress of our homes to unite with our neighbors and community members.

We share our strengths, our talents and skills with each other, and we all benefit from it.

Therefore, every year since A Melo Place opened in (officially in January 2011), I have opened the door to my community to participate in a community art project, where everyone contributes to making one scene on the topic of Civil Rights or community. Participation is free, and each year’s project is placed on display together with the projects of years past during the week of Martin Luther King Day.

From MLK Day of 2011 there is a small diorama of the March on Washington for jobs and freedom of 1963.

In 2012, a small group of friends and clients helped create a mosaic of words and cut-out pictures to create the face of Dr. King, and it hangs in the window of A Melo Place during the last two weeks of January.

In 2013, senior community member Betty Brown helped create the project “Standing Shoulder to Shoulder.” It too hung in the window, but condensation caused it to disintegrate.

In 2014, anyone who came into the shop was invited to add people to the scene “It Takes a Village” which fills a card table.

In 2015, all my customers contributed to “One World,” which is a small globe covered in natural materials depicting the continents.

Last year the Siskiyou Arts Council hosted a special event for MLK Day in which all these community projects were exhibited.

This year, 2016, we are recreating the project “Standing Shoulder to Shoulder.” This phrase was given to me by Native American Takelma elder, Grandma Agnes Baker-Pilgrim, who said that instead of trying to “learn about Indians” we should all stand “shoulder to shoulder” to take care of the environment.

In the photo you can see nine people holding hands, and there is room for many more. They were created by children and adults, residents and tourists who stopped in for a craft or supply.

For the duration of January, anyone who enters A Melo Place will be offered an opportunity to decorate a paper doll that will join other dolls in a chain, joining hands to take care of the environment and each other.

If there is any public place that would like to display our creative endeavors, I would love to share them. If you are driving down Chestnut Street this week, stop by to view the display.

This celebration of Dr. King’s legacy is very personal to me. In his Freedom speech from 1963, I heard him describe minorities and dominant cultures living together at a time when that was not a reality, and as a person of a minority, it became my dream too. He ends, “When we let [freedom] ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing…”