RIO GRANDE – The University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College takes pride in the Welsh heritage of Southeastern Ohio. The Madog Center for Welsh Studies on campus strives to preserve this heritage and the Welsh-American connection for future generations in the community and provide students an understanding of its significance to the region. Welsh settlers first came to the area in 1818 from the areas near Cardiganshire, modern Ceredigion County, along the southwest coast of Wales. To commemorate the 200th anniversary of the settlement, the communities around Aberaeron, Wales planned, Cymru-Ohio 2018, to celebrate the connection to southeast Ohio and Welsh-American heritage. Director of the Madog Center, Jeanne Jones-Jindra, said it was an honor for the Madog Center to represent Rio as well as southeastern Ohio at the festival.
“There are not many Welsh centers in the United States, so we’ve worked really hard to raise the level of awareness of what we do here in the Madog Center. It was so important for us to be a part of the Cymru-Ohio 2018 festival and represent Welsh-Americans in our community who weren’t able to attend,” Jones-Jindra said. “We wouldn’t be here without the Welsh who left Cardiganshire and settled here instead of continuing to a settlement near Cincinnati. Ceredigion County is where we have our roots. The Madog Center’s mission is to keep the Welsh imprint strong in this area, and staying connected to Wales helps advance our efforts.”
Several members of the Rio community and residents of the area traveled to Wales for the celebration as an opportunity to reconnect with their family heritage. University of Rio Grande Board of Trustees Member Clyde Evans, who has Welsh roots in Cardiganshire, said he believes the trip was a great way for those who attended to embrace their families’ shared history and culture.
“I had a wonderful time visiting Wales with my family. This gave us the opportunity to explore our ancestors’ homeland and connect Rio Grande and the surrounding areas to our Welsh roots,” Evans said. “It was an honor to join the Madog Center in representing Rio on this trip, and I am so proud of all the organization does to keep the heritage passed down from the 1818 Welsh settlers alive and share it with our students.”
During the festival, two Rio professors of art, Benjy Davies and Kevin Lyles, presented their work, “Paired Landscapes,” in an exhibition in the Rhiannon Art Gallery in Tregaron. “Paired Landscapes” presents the research on the comparison of landscapes in Wales and southeastern Ohio as well as what similarities made the region appealing to Welsh settlers. The exhibit was originally created for Rio’s Madog Faculty Fellowship in the spring of 2017. For the exhibition, Davies and Lyles reunited with Welsh artists Andrew Baldwin and Bryan Thomas, who assisted with the original research in Wales and visited that semester as guest artists. Jones-Jindra said having an art exhibit created by Rio faculty on display in Wales was a great experience.
“Taking the “Paired Landscapes” exhibit to the celebration was an amazing opportunity for Rio. It was a beautiful gallery, and I was so excited for Benjy and Kevin to be able to share their work in Wales,” Jones-Jindra said. “We were also able to take the time to visit Trinity St. David’s Swansea campus where two of our students will be studying abroad this fall.”
Jones-Jindra said the Cymru-Ohio 2018 festival organizers are planning to bring a group to visit Rio and the surrounding areas in the fall to continue the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the 1818 settlement.