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The Light Project

Denver Public Library, CO

Innovation Summary

The Colorado Ballet approached the Denver Public Library as a potential community partner in Light: The Holocaust and Humanity Project. While they would be hosting the performance of Light, they hoped that other community organizations would present supplemental programming about the Holocaust, Jewish history, and modern genocide.

Innovation Leader: Jenny LaPerriere , Senior Librarian, jlaperri@denverlibrary.org

Problem Statement

Fresh City Life and Fresh City Life My Branch offer educational and entertainment opportunities for adults at DPL’s Central Library and selected branches. We wanted to present a diverse array of related programming suitable to the Central Library as well as the more intimate atmosphere of the branch libraries. One of the things we discussed with the Colorado Ballet representative was the fact that this type of programming could get very dark and emotionally heavy, so we sought programs that celebrated life and hope as well as remembering the pain and violence of the past. We saw this as an opportunity to engage our customers with experts and authors, with food and music, and for diverse groups to come together. While we used our normal publicity avenues, we also reached out specifically to Denver’s large Jewish population, as well as to organizations that work with immigrants and for immigrant justice. This was an opportunity to create conversation, community, and common ground.

Innovation

We planned 16 programs at 4 branches and the Central Library over a 5-month period. We reached out to local contacts for presenters and partners. Branch programs included an Israeli Jew & a Palestinian Muslim, authors of One Land, Two Stories; a local artist doing a living history performance as Golda Meir; Animal Abuse and the Violence Connection with the Denver Dumb Friends League; 2 cooking programs - Eating the World: Dishes Immigrants Brought to America, and Celebrating Jewish Cooking; 2 programs on Compassionate Communication; and Living Between Worlds: Building Bridges of Welcome, bringing together Holocaust survivors/2nd generation, recent immigrants, and American born participants to share stories and music. Much of the branch programming was funded by a grant from neighborhood organization The Lowry Foundation. Partnering with the Mizel Museum, Central Library programs included readings of excerpts from I Never Saw Another Butterfly, inspirational writing by children detained at the Terezin Concentration Camp; Unbounded: Breaking the Chains of Modern Day Slavery, an original performance/concert reflecting on the history of Jewish & African American oppression and slavery; Other Places, Other Voices, a spoken word workshop on bigotry and social justice; and a month long display of student artworks in honor of Holocaust Remembrance. These programs were included in our regular programming brochures, community newsletters, and web promotion. Fliers were sent to other community and faith based organizations as well. Library programs were included in the master list of community programs on the Colorado Ballet’s website. At each library program, The Colorado Ballet and The Light Project were promoted, along with upcoming programs in the series.

Progress

Of the 16 programs, 2 were canceled due to a snow storm, and 3 are upcoming. 273 people attended the other 11 programs. The student artwork display at the Central Library prompted interest and positive feedback from many who saw it. People were grateful for the author talk, which showed the personal side of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, as well as hope for a peaceful resolution. Cooking programs are always popular, and the Jewish and Immigrant Cooking classes not only allowed folks to share and try new dishes, but share stories of the foods they enjoyed growing up and dishes that their parents or grandparents made. The Compassionate Communication classes were among the most popular. One participant wrote on a comment card “I was over the moon…I learned how I could communicate in a peaceful, nurturing, and mutually beneficial way with others.” She went on to urge us to schedule more of these free workshops: “I know we can bring about positive change one participant at a time.” The other Compassionate Communication workshop focused on parenting, and was equally well received. Living Between Worlds brought people together through stories and music, and people continued conversations in the parking lot well after the library had closed for the day. Overall, our partnership with The Colorado Ballet allowed us to focus some of our programming on education, communication, and bringing our community together towards mutual respect and understanding. We helped the Colorado Ballet achieve their goal of generating conversations and remembrance: http://www.denverpost.com/lifestyles/ci_22885310/colorado-ballet-and-100-non-profits-partner-holocaust.