Serife Ayakta: Living the American Dream While Keeping a Piece of Home

Serife Ayakta (meaning standing in honor), carries a legacy in her name from the maternal and paternal sides of her family. Her grandmother instilled in her, “Whatever happens do not lay down, get up.” Serife grew up near Istanbul,Turkey. After an earthquake killed her mother and destroyed her home and baby furniture business, her husband’s friend urged, “Go to the United States. America has big dreams for your children.” Serife explains, “My husband and I decided to come here to see if it was okay for our children’s future.” Upon their arrival they spent time with distant relatives and friends that had previously immigrated to New York City. Relocating to New Jersey in 2001 with their three children, Serife, began working at a daycare center.  She loved the babies, but when the job would not provide the opportunity for her to travel to Santa Barbara for a week with her daughter,

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Anna Felcyn: Balancing American and Immigrant Identities Through Food Traditions

Anna Felcyn was born in Lesna, Poland, a small town of about 5000 people. All throughout her childhood, cooking was an important tradition due to the social, economic and political landscape. After World War II Poland was a communist country.  Resources were low and high quality food was largely unavailable. Although Anna’s family wasn’t always able to buy the best ingredients, the Polish tradition of cooking meant “making the best out of what you had,” says Anna. “People didn’t have much.”  But that didn’t stop her mother from teaching her the traditions that had been passed down through many generations. During Anna’s childhood, her parents worked all day and left cooking dinner to Anna and her two sisters. Despite their busy lives, enjoying dinners together helped the family come together. When Anna and her family first tried to come to America, they had difficulty obtaining green cards. Since Anna’s sister

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The Prosperity of Heritage: Federal and State Agencies fund Tastefully South Jersey Projects

Perkins Center for the Arts is the proud recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities  (NEH) Common Heritage Grant and the New Jersey Council for the Humanities  (NJCH) Incubation grant for our Tastefully South Jersey Exhibition and Workshop Series.  Tastefully South Jersey is an exploration into folk art and culture through the lens of food traditions in Burlington, Gloucester, and Camden. The three-county engagement will celebrate diverse food arts through African American, Eastern European, Latin and Caribbean cultures.  The project is conducted by the Folklife Center at Perkins Center for the Arts. In every family, there are a few people who end up with the family “stuff.”  But it’s the precious stuff of traditions, legacies and family heirlooms. The $5,000 NJCH award supports research to unearth artifacts and family stories that explore the ways in which foodways are a connecting thread to trace the commonalities and differences among groups in the same community. The$12,000 NEH grant

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