Along the shores of East River, lies the language capital of this planet; Queens known as the “Word’s Borough”. This is where you can be exposed to approximately 160 of the 800 languages spoken in New York City. If you are unable to go on a sabbatical to travel the world, roam the streets of Astoria, Elmhurst and Jackson Heights to scout the best Salvadoran pupusas, Malaysian laksa, or Nepalese momos.
However, you can only find Mongolian food at the homes of Mongolian Queens residents. Fortunately, on Wednesday, July 24, you don’t have to knock on strangers’ homes or travel across the globe for $1500, you can just come to Socrates Sculpture Park in Astoria at 7 pm to truly experience Mongolia.
Mongolia Live and Mongol Heritage Foundation are honored to co-host the film screening of Mongolian film, “The Story of the Weeping Camel” with Socrates Sculpture Park this lovely summer evening. The film screening will be accompanied by live Morin khuur and Urtiin Duu (long song) performance and Mongolian food. (Artist bios at the end of the interview) Additionally, you can enjoy Mongolian ger (yurt) and learn to write your name in Mongol script.
Hereby, we present you the Director of Public Programs of Socrates Sculpture Park, Audrey Dimola to learn more about the event organizer.
How long have you been working at the park and what do you like the most about your job?
I’ve been working there for three years since 2016. Every day is different. I get to work with so many amazingly different, talented people both in performance and partnership and just the public that comes to the park. It’s such an honor to serve that community also because I grew up two blocks away. So I’ve been playing and spending time in that park my whole life.
What is unique about Socrates Sculpture Park?
It’s three things and I’m sure a million more if you ask more people. It’s a New York City park, open every day for recreational use and it is also an outdoor art museum. It is a community event space. We have an amazing range of free public programming, everything from festivals, concerts, art-making, fitness to meditation classes. It really strives to hold the space for so many different people and really give something for everyone.
It was a space that was converted from an illegal dumpsite in the 80s by our founder named Mark di Suvero. The neighborhood was really industrial at the time and so it was started by the people for the people. 33 years later we’re still there.
Queens is the most diverse spot on earth. Is this the first time that the park is featuring the Mongolian community?
Yes, we have so many different cultures represented. It’s really important to me to reflect that in my programming and have people see themselves but also be exposed to people that are different from them. I’m actually not sure if it’s the first time because I can only speak for the time that I’ve been there. I’m so excited to have made connections with Mongolia Live and Mongol Heritage Foundation and to put Mongolian culture on full display in the outdoor cinema this year.
I’m curious about how all this came together. Who made the decision to show a Mongolian film?
That was actually our partner Film Forum. We do these series in partnership with Film Forum and in collaboration with Rooftop Films, two stalwarts in the cinema industry that curate films. The film was selected by Karen Cooper from Film Forum and came across my desk. It’s my responsibility then to program the food, the entertainment, and the live element.
Unlike typical film screenings, I’m quite excited that Socrates Sculpture Park film screening will have live morin khuur and long song performance by the Mongolian community members nominated by Mongol Heritage Foundation.
I think not only is the International film element special in that people are getting to see movies from all over the world and hear them in different languages but to have this added element of live performance makes for a really unique evening. It helps to continue being this meeting place of the people.
Our neighborhood is changing so much and it has to be this place that is safe for everyone. It is a place for people to come together to celebrate themselves and celebrate each other. It just carries this amazing free energy and creativity. I feel like it’s such an oasis in the city with such a unique social flavor and energy that you can’t really experience unless you’re there.
How is the neighborhood changing?
The city has been rapidly gentrifying over the past 15, 12 or 10 years. People are getting priced out of the neighborhood. Neighborhoods and businesses are changing. Also, wonderful things are also coming in; new transportation options like a city bike and the ferry are great for us because we’re so out of the way. We can be the place where all of those people can coexist and learn about each other and enjoy their relation to each other.
You’ve never been to Mongolia, right? When are you going there? Any final thoughts you’d like to share with the readers?
No, I haven’t been to Mongolia. I might go there on Wednesday, then 🙂
It’s a wonderful thing to bring in different cultures. The enthusiasm of some of the Mongolian community members that I have been speaking with is so palpable and real. They’re propelling forward to bring so many elements of the culture including their food. I’m glad to be experiencing your stories told by your own voice and music here in New York City. I’m thrilled about this new partnership and enthusiasm with Mongolia Live and Mongol Heritage Foundation.
My door and ears are open to hearing more from the Mongolian community and other communities to have their stories told and see how we can be a place for them. Check out the programming! Everything is free and everything is accessible.
Meet the Mongol Artists
Bayarjargal Chogsom (or Baagii as he is known) is born and raised in Ulaanbaatar Mongolia then moved to New York City with his family in 2003. He works as a physical therapist at a private clinic. At a young age, he discovered his passion for music and traditional Mongolian instrument called horse-head fiddle (or morin khuur as its called). He started taking lessons from the son of a legendary Mongolian musician Soyol-Erdene Tserendorj in 2003 until his family moved to the US. This self-taught morin khuur player has performed many different events around the NY area including the United Nations Asian day concert, Asian society, Columbia University, Tibet House, Javits Center National Geographic Channel’s Tourism events. His goal is to master the Morin Khuur and help the world discover the greatness of this instrument.
Suvda Khereid was born in Shilingol, Southern Mongolia. Since elementary school, she has participated in many school and public theater performances. She began studying vocal performance with a professional teacher in a musical college in Southern Mongolia and continued to practice singing with a professional teacher in Japan while studying at Toboku University. She will present the Urdiin Duu, a form of Mongolian traditional song called folk long song. She has performed extensively in China, Japan, and the United States.