INTERCULTURAL FESTIVAL promotes cultural diversity

Ryan Jarvi

Culture is something everyone has been affected by. No matter where you’re from or what you have learned, culture has played a role.

With roots dating back to 1963, Grand Valley State University has held a festival each year to raise awareness of the many different cultures, and that festival officially became known as the Intercultural Festival in 2005. This year will be Aris Mantopoulos, graduate assistant at Campus Programming and Outreach of the Office of Student Life at GVSU’s second year planning the festival.

“This event is hosted each year to recognize the different ways in which we’re all diverse,” Mantopoulos said.

“If you have to ask whether somebody qualifies, or an organization qualifies as culture, the answer is yes, because everything has a culture behind it,” Mantopoulos said. “Everything has history, everything has meaning, and everything is done in a way because a culture exists.”

The event will host several cultural performances like belly dancing, capoeira and Ghanaian dance-drumming.

“We have a variety of musical and dance performances, and also there will be different cultural food offerings throughout the event,” Mantopoulos said. “We try to represent as many cultures as possible—we’re not trying to provide an entire meal to our guests, but more of just a sampling so people can taste a bit of culture from around the world.”

In addition to diverse food and performances, a disc jockey will be playing cultural music.

“We’re trying to create as much of a festival feel as we can, being that we’re in Michigan and the weather outside is challenging,” Mantopoulos said. “Ideally festivals are held outdoors, but we’re trying to bring as much of that festival feel into the Grand River room.”

Tables will also be set up providing information and activities about various organizations and academic departments on campus.

“We want people to celebrate culture, and people can come enjoy the aspects of different cultures as well as learn something new,” Mantopoulos said.

Dave Chaness, president of the Japanese Culture Association and secretary of the Chinese Language and Culture Club, has been in contact with Mantopoulos since early this semester.

“Originally the JCA had been planning our own festival at this time of the year to complement our fall festival,” Chaness said. “However, after seeing our requests Aris asked if we would be more willing to integrate our ideas into the Intercultural Festival instead.”

The JCA has invited the Michigan Okinawa Association of Chimugukuru-kai for a drum performance that is set to begin at 6 p.m.

Intercultural Festival organizers also reserved space for faculty members who wanted to participate and complement the festival’s activities.

Svetoslav Pavlov, coordinator of Russian Studies, along with other faculty and students of the Russian studies program and the Russian and Polish language programs organized an Eastern European poetry event as part of the festival. Original poetry by students and faculty will be read and a poetry recitation contest will be held. Samples of Eastern European finger food will also be available.

“I think being exposed to culture and other people’s culture can give you a different perspective and learn something from people that are different from you,” Mantopoulos said. “There’s a lot to be learned from exposing yourself to an environment where so many different cultures are present.”

The Intercultural Festival will be held March 26 from 5 p.m. until 10 p.m. in the Grand River room of Kirkhof. The Eastern European Poetry event will take place the same day as the festival from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. in 2270 Kirkhof. Both events are free and open to the public.

“I think that it is very important for the students and greater community at GVSU to attend these events because many people in this area would not be able to experience these cultures otherwise,” Chaness said. “There is very little diversity in West Michigan and I think that these types of events are an important step in changing this.”

For more information on the Intercultural Festival and a complete list of performances, visit
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