This December on Dana Hall’s Day of Community Learning, I was given the great opportunity of facilitating one of the workshops that would support the theme of this year’s program: “Building Bridges and Sharing Spaces.” This theme serendipitously aligned with the overarching goals of the Memory Project, an organization that I had worked with last year and with which I was eager to reconnect. Our Day of Community Learning seemed like the perfect venue to have students participate in the Memory Project’s Global Art Exchange, a new program in which “American elementary and middle students engage in artistic peacebuilding by exchanging handmade, heartfelt artwork with kids from countries that are culturally very different from the USA.” Thirty of our middle schoolers attended the workshop and received images of artwork from children, ages 5-8, in Nigeria. They then created their own drawings and paintings illustrating ideas of peace, friendship and kindness to send back to the children.
Our students were full of enthusiasm as they looked over the photos of the children, artists, and the artwork we received from Nigeria. They then got to work quickly and confidently, exploring image making in pencil, pastel, acrylic and watercolor paint. Within minutes our classroom became a flurry of color and activity. The students showed unbridled creativity and commitment to their work, returning on several occasions after our workshop session to complete their pieces.
I was struck by the variety of images created by our students and thoughtfulness with which they discussed their work. In the artists’ statements the girls wrote to accompany their work, they describe meaningful messages they intend to communicate through their artwork. As fifth grader F. Sjogren wrote (describing her artwork below), “I drew this picture to symbolize our connection. Although we are in different places, we are still together. I made the door in the middle of the separated island as a bridge to one another’s world. Thank you for inspiring me to make this, Rahama!”
It is my hope that our students will continue to foster connection, kindness and peace through the arts, and it is my role to help guide them in doing so.
While we sent the original work off to Nigeria, I encourage everyone to view copies of the students’ artwork on display in the Middle School in the coming weeks.
Peace. Pass it on!