Italian Day 2019: Il Centro aims to strengthen connections and promote culture during Italian Heritage Month

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      Joan D’Angola Kluge has every reason to celebrate everything Italian.

      “I’m Italian as far back as we can trace,” Kluge told the Straight in a phone interview. “Both of my parents were Italian immigrants to Canada. My background and heritage is Italian, but I’m also a very proud Canadian.”

      This year’s June observance of Italian Heri­tage Month is extra special for her. It will be the first time that she will mark the occasion in her capacity as executive director of Vancouver’s Italian Cultural Centre, a.k.a. Il Centro.

      Last year, she and her husband and their kids attended events as members of the public. She started in her job in July 2018.

      “The mission of the Italian Cultural Centre is to promote Italian culture, heritage, and values and share these with other communities,” Kluge said. “So we actually work throughout the year to connect Italian culture to other communities.”

      The centre, located at 3075 Slocan Street, is hosting several events.

      One not to be missed, according to Kluge, is Festa della Repubblica, the celebration of Italian National Day, on June 6.

      The event includes a free concert by Orchestra Casadei, a band famous in (and visiting from) Italy. There is also free food, courtesy of the centre, the Italian Consulate General in Vancouver, and local Italian nonprofits. The popular event is on a first-come, first-served basis.

      Kluge also said that the centre is focused on creating an Italian experience with its mercato, or Italian market. The free event will be held on June 14 from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m.

      According to Kluge, the centre wants to replicate the experience of walking in a quaint Italian town, shopping and eating with friends and family. Complete with live music, the market will be on outdoor walkways and in various rooms.

      Another highlight is the Serata della Gratitudine banquet to recognize centre volunteers. The June 21 evening event will also feature the presentation of the immigrant-of-the-year award. (Tickets are $50.)

      Kluge said that one aspect of Italian culture the centre also wants to promote is art. This June, the centre’s museum is presenting various exhibits. One is Ancient Women in Textile: The Jacquard Weaving of Ruth Scheuing, which runs to June 15. A Renfrew-Collingwood immigrant community art exhibit called In My Own Voice runs from June 18 to June 22, and an art exhibit titled Brides: Portrait of a Marriage opens on June 27.

      Kluge also said that the centre is working with the Italian Contemporary Film Festival to present Italian-language films with subtitles during Italian Heritage Month at the Vancity and Rio theatres.

      For details about events, go to