La Maestra: Maria Luisa Michel Almonte

A video about teacher and master craftsperson Maria Luisa Michel Almonte. An artist/teacher, after immigrating to Chicago in 1950 she supported her family from her flower shop business and became a leader in the educational and cultural life of the community. She taught traditional arts, crafts, and practical skills like dress-making in settlement houses, in community workshops and in her own studio. The video shows Ms. Almonte in community-sponsored workshops teaching neighborhood residents how to make traditional cut-paper ornaments and how to design clothing.

00:00Copy video clip URL Onscreen text: “Artist/teacher, Maria Almonte, immigrated from Mexico to Chicago’s Pilsen-Little Village neighborhood in 1950. She became a leader in the social and cultural life of the community. Thirty years later she continued to teach and act on her belief that artistic expression is a powerful tool to develop cultural identity and individual self-esteem.” 

00:20Copy video clip URL A mural, street signs at 18th and Racine in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. People walking the sidewalk on 18th. 

00:50Copy video clip URL Title card: “La Maestra: M.L. Michel Almonte. (c) 1984 Eleanor Boyer & Karen Peugh.” Almonte sits on steps speaking to children in Spanish. “For 30 years, Mrs. Almonte has taught arts and crafts in her studio and with city-wide organizations.” Almonte working with scissors and paper, demonstrating her techniques. 

2:30Copy video clip URL Discussion of Almonte’s work with Spanish-speaking Chicagoans. Almonte leads a class in which she shares the global history of a paper cutting and folding technique. 

04:35Copy video clip URL A demonstration of a technique for folding tissue paper that was used by village inhabitants for making paper lanterns. Voiceover discussion of the excitement felt by Almonte’s students. 

06:08Copy video clip URL Discussion of Almonte’s teaching methods, which emphasizes self-discipline. The respect she’s shown by her students. 

06:55Copy video clip URL Almonte’s daughter speaks about immigrating to the United States because Almonte wanted to raise her family her own way. 

07:41Copy video clip URL Almonte’s son talks about the difficulties they experienced as a family, and the work Almonte did to provide for her family. Almonte discusses her start as a craft teacher. 

08:53Copy video clip URL Almonte’s work with Mexican cultural groups. Going “junking” – looking through trash and alleys for materials to be used in crafts and arts projects. 

10:13Copy video clip URL Almonte’s flower shop. She discusses working with groups that have no money. One of her students talks about Almonte’s teaching methods: “She teaches us to develop our ideas, not to follow a book. It’s marvelous. One learns to think for oneself. One learns to develop what is innate, what is one’s own art.”

11:41Copy video clip URL Discussion of Almonte as “a master craftsperson.” Almonte talks about her preparation for classes. 

12:46Copy video clip URL Almonte talks about how much she enjoys teaching her students. A young student enthusiastically shares her love of the classes. 

14:12Copy video clip URL St. Adalbert’s church, where Almonte is putting on a fashion show of her students’ work. Women and girls walk a butcher paper runway showing off the clothes sewn by the students. 

16:45Copy video clip URL Awarding certificates to students. A speech in Spanish. Almonte, in voiceover, shares her love and gratitude for her students. 

18:36Copy video clip URL End credits: “Special Thanks To: / Especial Agradecimiento A: M.L. Michel Almonte, Blanca E. Almonte, Rene D. Trapaga, James V. Guiseffi, Albert Vazquez (Executive Director, Pilsen-Little Village Community Mental Health Center, Inc.), Maria Barragan, Emma Villanueva, Mrs. Almonte’s Students, Volunteers & Friends participating in this project / Los estudiantes, voluntarios y amigos de la Sra. Almonte, que participaron en este proyecto. Additional thanks to / Agradecemos tambien a: Community Television Network, Cordi-Marian Settlement, Field Museum Photo Archives, Notre Dame Church, Orlando R. Cabanban, University of Illinois at Chicago Library Manuscript Collection. Produced by: / Produccion: Eleanor Boyer, Karen Peugh. Directed & Edited by: / Edicion y Direccion: Eleanor Boyer, Karen Peugh. Video taped by: /Videograbacion: Eleanor Boyer, Karen Peugh. Post-production / Edicion final: E & C Media. Production Assitance: / Asistentes de produccion: Maria Piña, Wayne Boyer, Mirko Popadic, Annette Barbier. Translations by: / Traducciones: Alejandro Velasco, Maria Piña, Ruth Rodriguez, Laura Susmano. Additional music by: / Musica adicional: Roberto España. Equipment & Facilities: / Equipos y Instalaciones: Center for New Television, E & C Media. This program was partially financed by: / Este programa ha sido subsidiado en parte por: The Center for New Television by a Grant from the Joyce Foundation, and the Illinois Arts Council, An agency of the state.”



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