Cultural immersion center offers education in arts and history

Founded by Inadahen I Lina’la, a nonprofit organization comprised of artisans and community members, Sagan Kotturan Chamoru (SKC) is a cultural center focused on promoting and perpetuating the Chamorro culture.

It has a partnership with other immersion programs such as Hurao Academy and the Haya Foundation.

“We wanted to create a commune of artists so that we can start teaching the next generation,” said master of ornamentation Julie Quichocho Benavente, who owns and manages the center’s gift shop, Guinahan Chamoru. “Everyone pretty much works out of their own house and we want to provide instruction that is more than just one-to-one.”

SKC’s acting director Ray Leon Guerrero stated that the center exhibits work and offers education and apprenticeship opportunities from all kinds of fields, including weaving, two-dimensional art, traditional fishing and hunting, seafaring, farming, medicine, and performing arts. The artists at the center include Leon Guerrero himself, Julie Quichocho Benavente, James Bamba, Mark Dell’Isola, and more.  

The center rests on a beautifully situated property overlooking Ypao Beach and is comprised of eight houses. Each house has been refurbished to provide a space to house an artist and his or her work.

Visitors also have the option to browse the gift shop and museum, which is full of artifacts from a number of periods of Chamorro history such as hair pieces, sling stones, and jewelry.

Running the center has not been easy, however. The organization has faced a number of difficulties regarding its creation and maintenance.

“It’s been hard,” said Leon Guerrero. “It took us over eight years of clearing jungle and debris for [SKC] to look like it does today. We’re still in the business of sorting things out. We have running water, but no power, so we still have to work on that.”

Around the time of the center’s formation, a business was interested in making the property a resort. Since they were familiar with the area, members of Inadahen I Lina’la requested to convert the land into a cultural center. Their case went through the Chamorro Land Trust Commission and they were given a 20-year license to operate.

As a way to encourage community involvement, the center has partnered with local high schools to provide students with service learning hours by letting them volunteer to maintain the center’s eight-acre grounds. They have also branched out to the public by involving themselves with events such as the Festival of the Pacific Arts, Micronesian Island Fair, and going out to schools to showcase the artists’ creations.

Although the establishment and management of the center has not been without its difficulties, the people involved with SKC remain optimistic.

“There is a lot of potential here,” Benavente said. “My dream is to see arts in all forms [be displayed] here. I would love to see pottery and blacksmithing be taught here, for example. It really is a beautiful place to have a commune and educate the members of the next generation. But they haveto touch it first and see if it’s for them.”

SKC is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday through Saturday. If you are interested in visiting the center or making a donation, contact Ray Leon Guerrero at 688-1853.  

 

 

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