Interview: Aida Shahghasemi on how the Cedar Cultural Center's continuing to foster community


Cedar Cultural Center
Cedar Cultural Center (illustration by Allegra Lockstadt for The Current)

This is a challenging time to start a new job as marketing and communications manager at a music venue, but the Cedar Cultural Center’s Aida Shahghasemi is undaunted.

"It requires multitasking all the time," she said about her new role in an interview today via Instagram. "How can we create content that we can have available for people online? How can we continue to have communication with our donors, and people who have supported us as artists, and just audience members — [including] people that have been with the Cedar since the '80s?"

While the West Bank venue is preparing its historic auditorium for optimal air circulation and hygiene whenever it's able to reopen for live-in-person audiences (likely reduced capacity at first), but that's not in the cards any time too soon.

"We're trying to survive in alternative ways," said Shahghasemi, "coming up with ways that allow us to still create content and be available to music lovers — especially unique music lovers, music that comes from marginalized communities both from Minnesota and around the world."

To that end, the Cedar has launched a "Public Access Channel" that Shahghasemi described as a platform for "really creative video content and music content...How can you bring the same visual feeling material that you would see if you were attending a show at the Cedar alongside the amazing music, of course, that you would first and foremost be going to experience?"

Will creative streams like this continue even after live-in-person music returns? Shahghasemi said it depends, but noted that it would be challenging for a small nonprofit like the Cedar to maintain a project like the Public Access Channel and function as a public venue.

"What I love about us and so many other small nonprofit organizations is that it's always a learning curve," she said. "What is working? What's not working? How can we stay true to our mission and really serve the community...but at the same time, adhere to the realities of our time? We do want to continue the Cedar as much as possible, but I think this is the beginning of a new era and we do have to try to do things a lot more digitally now."

For those interested in tuning in, Shahghasemi noted, "We have the next Cedar Public Access Channel program, called SEEN, coming up this Thursday, October 29, at 7:30, which can be viewed both on the Cedar's Facebook page and YouTube page...we also have our next one, Thunder Band, which is a local Somali band, coming up on November 19."

Watch the full conversation below.

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