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Student art/world art.

Modern communication and air transportation have made the world small. Photographs of the earth from space vividly confirm the minuscule niche we occupy in the universe and make clear that the peoples of the world are part of a whole, connected by the planet they share.

Though we are closer to an inter-cultural understanding than our forefathers could ever have foreseen, the state of the political and economic world requires that people continue to search for new ways of making connections with each other. Artworks are idea "connectors." They embody a universal language, allowing ideas and feelings to be conveyed though we may not understand the native tongue of the artist. With this in mind, the art department at Green Fields Country Day School organized an international student art exhibit on its campus.

Organizing an International Art Exhibit

The goal of connecting with another culture or country can be achieved by seeking student artwork from just one school abroad. We felt it would be more interesting, however, if we had works from politically diverse countries such as Hungary and the United States, and economically diverse countries such as Nigeria and Japan, as well as countries that the students were interested in, or perhaps had never heard of such as Sikkim. We wanted to nudge students' curiosity with the hope that they might study the countries in more detail or start pen pal relationships. They did.

As soon as our school community learned that we were interested in doing an international student art exhibit, we found that some people were traveling to countries we were interested in and others had addresses of friends who lived in those countries. We also had a members' list of the International Society for Education through Art (INSEA). Our students prepared 18" x 24" (4-6 cm x 61 cm) packets, containing the students' age and grade and fifteen pieces of two-dimensional art of various media and styles (watercolor, oil, pen and ink; abstract, realistic). A letter was written to include in the packet. This letter described our school and explained that the artwork should be looked upon as a gift, not to be returned, and that we hoped they would reciprocate. We offered to pay air postage, and asked that they tell us about their school and send photos if possible. (Everyone paid their own postage; only Japan sent photos.)

We placed the artwork between two Styrofoam boards and wrapped it all with brown paper and taped the package so that it would fit into a suitcase. We simply asked our traveling friends to give the packet to a school in the foreign city they were visiting and try to collect the student art then and there to bring back to us. We also asked for the principal's name and school address so we could write for details about the school.

I also wrote to friends in foreign countries and explained the project, asking for their help. Once a school was found there, I would write the principal and get agreement for the exchange. We covered the packet with as many different stamps as we could secure at the post office. (It cost $24 to send the packet to Japan and we used over 200 stamps, nearly covering the entire surface, save the address space.)

Time, effort and value

The exhibit was well worth the time and effort it took. We plan to do an international student art exhibit on an annual basis. This coming year, we hope to secure art from the People's Republic of China, Togo, India and Sweden. Although it took nine months to organize the first exhibit, it was not hard work; there was no rash and it was interesting.

Our school ranges from the fifth to the twelfth grade. Out of 180 students, one quarter of the student body at all grade levels, participated in the project. In addition, students from several surrounding schools came to the exhibit as a class trip. The exhibit was up for a month and then became a traveling exhibit to other private and public schools. At our official opening, many people from our local art community came, as did the news media. The international exhibit reached people beyond our school community and made an impact. We achieved our goal.

Nearly one hundred pieces of art were displayed. They represented typical classroom art as taught in elementary and secondary schools in Hungary, Japan, Nigeria, Sikkim, the Soviet Union and the United States. The works were displayed by country rather than theme, though viewers were encouraged to discover similarities in subject matter: home life, people at play, people at work. At the beginning of each country's section there was a description of the school from which the artwork came, a map of the country with a star marking the country's capital and school's town, a small exhibit of the country's stamps, and a display of letters, photos and other items that might have accompanied the artwork.

Phineas Anderson is Principal of the Green Fields Country Day School, Tucson, Arizona.
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Title Annotation:Green Fields Country Day School's international student art exhibition, Tucson, Arizona
Author:Anderson, Phineas
Publication:School Arts
Date:May 1, 1991
Previous Article:Art and history in perspective.
Next Article:Promoting intercultural exchange: artwork, videos and ideas.

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