Diverse Heritage of Spearfish Residents Focus in New Gallery Exhibit

The exhibition will be displayed at the Matthews Opera House through Feb. 22 during normal art gallery hours. The Big Read Spearfish has focused on community events that celebrate the book a�?The Namesakea�? by Jhumpa Lahiri. a�?The Namesakea�? highlights a journey of a couple from India and how they adjust to living in the United States. a�?The Namesakea�? book and related materials is available for free at The Matthews Opera House, the Spearfish Recreation Center, and the Grace Balloch Public Library.

Jeff Smith, Proofreader

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






“That’s the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet.” The stories of eleven local residents are featured at the Matthews Opera House & Arts Center’s new exhibit “Over Land & Sea: Spearfish Immigration Stories” to be apart of the next series of the Big Read Spearfish events.

The exhibition will be displayed at the Matthews Opera House through Feb. 22 during normal art gallery hours. The Big Read Spearfish has focused on community events that celebrate the book “The Namesake” by Jhumpa Lahiri. “The Namesake” highlights a journey of a couple from India and how they adjust to living in the United States. “The Namesake” book and related materials is available for free at The Matthews Opera House, the Spearfish Recreation Center, and the Grace Balloch Public Library.

Four BHSU professors are heralded at the Matthews Opera House at the art gallery for their own stories. Those featured are Abigail Domagall, assistant professor of geology, Micheline Nelson, director of field experiences and assistant professor of math/science education, Dr. Ahrar Ahmad professor of political science, and Dr. Parthasarathi Nag, associate professor of mathematics.

Dr. Parthasarathi Nag was one immigrant who got the majority of his studies done in India and received his Ph.D. in the United States which he said is a “very coveted” opportunity. Although Dr. Nag knew a lot about the United States in India, he had no idea how day-to-day life happened. One of the challenges he talked about was how to talk to people in certain circumstances such as at a restaurant, his professors and at a coffee shop. Dr. Nag has lived in Spearfish since 2004. In his story he conveyed that there are many complex differences in America compared to India such as buying a house or signing a contract where.

“There are a whole lot of aspects that are connected to any process,” Nag said.

Jytte Bowers -one of the Spearfish residents who is in the spotlight for the exhibit claimed that Spearfish is a friendly place and “one of the nicest places she has lived.”

Jytte Bowers came to the United States in 1959 and was foremost surprised at the race division when she was a nurse in Fayetteville, North Carolina in the 1960’s

“I worked at the floor where all the whites were expected. The whites stayed on the second floor and the blacks stayed on the first floor,” Bowers said.

Jytte had a good childhood in Denmark and a fairly smooth transition to the United States but was disturbed by World War II when Germany occupied Denmark. In her memoir, “Freedom’s Candles: From Tiananmen to Vilinus” she claimed, “we were the children of a Second World War, who learned to hate and mistrust before we learned the rules of grammar and the multiplication table.”

Jytte mentioned that the end of the occupation of Denmark was a big deal. On May 4 every year the Danish light a candle in the window to celebrate the liberation of Denmark from German forces. During that time in 1945 Jews in Denmark were able to escape and Sweden accepted a large number of them. Jytte’s own cousin was able to come back from Auschwitz to Denmark on May 5, 1945 also.

BHSU instructor and interim director of the Writing Center Kaija Swisher conducted the interviews on all of the participants and wrote all of the stories that are on display at the art gallery. The stories are framed next to each person’s photograph.

Sian Young, the Executive Director of the Matthews Opera House, asked Swisher to be the writer for the project and contact 10 to 15 immigrants in Spearfish to be featured for this event. Swisher wanted to make sure to get interviews from people of different ages, professions and countries. Everybody she did a story on had an amazing story and she wished she had more space to write more. In writing these stories Swisher stated, “I hope people can have better insight about the world around them as well as their own life journeys.”

In April, the Matthews Opera House & Arts Center will be hosting an Ashwin Batish concert where an ensemble led by Batish will play world beat raga fusion music featuring a sitar- a traditional Indian instrument for the next installment of the Big Read Spearfish events. Also in April will be a display of saris in the Matthews Opera House art gallery.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email