A Wash, A Rinse, and a Lesson in Language at the Laundromat

Hector Canonge

Multi-media artist Hector Canonge at the laundromat. (Photo: Petrushka Bazin/The Manhattan Times)

By Elyssa Ramirez

This story was originally published in The Manhattan Times on August 2, 2011.

NEW YORK—There will be more than just detergent and fabric softener being dispensed at the Laundromat this summer.

Local multi-media artist Hector Canonge was busy this past week, hard at work on final plans for his newest public art project, The Inwood Laundromat Language Institute.

Every day, local residents enter the Laundromat to handle a tedious weekly chore that many of us take for granted. However, as a regular himself, Canonge noticed that some people have difficulty getting the task done.

“There are a lot of newcomers [to the United States] in the area, and I see that they struggle with a lot of the concepts that we take for granted – the wash cycle, the spin cycle,” he explained. “Sometimes they even have difficulty asking to buy soap or for change because they don’t speak the language.”

(Via The New York Daily News)

For the length of the month of August, Canonge will teach two English classes for members of the community who commit to two one-hour sessions a week. The classes will take place at the Magic Touch Laundromat on Thayer Street on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The first session is from 9:30 to 10:30 am and the second be from 8:30 to 9:30 pm.

The project is part of Canonge’s artist residency with The Laundromat Project, an organization that supports public art projects. He won a grant earlier this year in the organization’s Create Change program that has allowed him to continue to create alternative learning spaces in the community.

Last month, Canonge spearheaded the Active Knowledge Academy at the Bronx River Arts Center. The month-long program brought artists out of their preferred medium to embark on an interactive learning journey with their peers.

Like the Active Knowledge Academy, TILLI, as Canonge affectionately calls his new project, “was created to explore the connections we can make amongst art, the community and learning.”

And really, what better place is there to explore those connections than in Magic Laundromat in Inwood?

Setting up at the folding tables in the center of the Laundromat, Canonge and his pupils will work on vocabulary central to the task, such as “clothes,” “pants,” “soap,” and “machines.” Then, using flashcards and a brochure, Canonge will move to more difficult aspects of the language such as possessives nouns (my sweater, your dress, his shorts) and verbs like the ubiquitously heard “wash” and “wait.”

Read the rest of the story at The Manhattan Times.

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