The Tandem Guides, nine students from Bremen, are arriving in Missouri next week to fulfill a dream that has been years in the making. And while the Tandem Guides are not the typical cultural exchange group, neither is their connection with Utopia – Revisiting a German State in America. The exhibit, currently at the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis until April 19th is the catalyst behind their visit. And the history behind this group is as unique as the Utopia exhibit as itself.
While the exhibit is a result of connections made by historians, film makers and photographers both in Germany, and in the U.S., the Tandem Guides is the result of the exhibit. As sponsorships and partnerships began in both Germany and in the U.S., there was interest in doing something for the young people who had an interest in emigration, German-American history, language and culture as well. In Bremen, Germany, Christiane Gartner, Director of Kultur vor Ort, met with Peter Roloff, head of the Traveling Summer Republic and the Utopia Team to discuss plans. In November of 2013, U.S. Liaison for Utopia, Dorris Keeven-Franke, and her daughter, Autumn Franke, met with Gartner and the young group of students, now 14 and 15 years of old to issue the invitation to visit when the exhibit reached St. Louis, and planning began.
Then as plans were laid for the exhibit at the Missouri History Museum discussion began for the Tandem Guides to meet with award winning Teens Make History program that work with the Missouri Historical Society. Their programs are amazingly similar!
Both groups allow for young people interested in history, culture and museums to become involved. They both study and learn about the history with experts and historians, and go on to plan a program that allows them to share what they have learned in their research. The Tandem Guides visited and began their research with archivist Ludwig Brake in Giessen Germany where the Utopia exhibit began its travels. They continued their studies, and performances in their hometown of Bremen when the Utopia exhibit reached there.
In 2014, when St. Louis-Stuttgart Sister Cities International started hearing about the approaching Utopia exhibit, Susanne Evens asked “how can we help?” and they graciously stepped forward to offer to host the students for their stay here in America. Housing Coordinator, Mary Kathryn Victor lined up several hosts for the nine students and their chaperones for the visit which begins next week. February 18. Without the help of the St. Louis-Stuttgart Sister Cities, the sponsorship of Kultur vor Ort, and many private donations both in the U.S. and in Germany, the whole project would not have happened. Their hosts here will provide lodging and meals for their ten day upcoming visit.
While here in Missouri the Tandem Guides will not only work with the Teens Make History from Missouri History, they will have an opportunity to visit St. Louis and Hermann and have pages of their English language textbook come alive. They will spend a day by train to visit the city of Hermann, hike the Cahokia Mounds, and take a trip up the Gateway Arch, all places they have studied. No visit for teenagers though would be complete without a High School basketball game at St. Charles High, a day at a shopping mall, and a trip to the City Museum, and a few pizza parties, including the young people of the St. Louis German Cultural Society.
And when the Rockwoods School District contacted coordinator and guest curator for the Utopia exhibit, Keeven-Franke, asking about a tour “auf Deutsch” in German, an opportunity opened for the Tandem
Guides’ special request to spend “a day in an American school” opened up. After visiting with students of the German language programs in their classrooms, the Rockwoods students will then have an language immersion day in the Utopia exhibit, at the Missouri History Museum, with the Tandem Guides as their “emigration” tour guides. The Muss i denn desk in the exhibit will be opened, and objects will be packed so that the Tandem Guides will return to Germany with not only stories, but objects to share with their classmates at home in Bremen.
With all of these new connections made, the cultural and historical exchange of Utopia and the Tandem Guides is sure to continue. If you would like to meet the Tandem Guides, they will be performing in the Utopia Gallery on Saturday, February 21, 2015 at 2:30 pm.. They have been studying their English in preparation, and are nervous about their first trip to the U.S. and performing. Join us as we welcome the Tandem Guides: Chioma, Patricia, Gözde, Jennifer, Sina, Melissa, Dawid, Ersin and Nico to St. Louis.