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The A.R.T. Exchange: Americans and Russians together.

With the dissolution and restructuring of the Soviet Union into a Commonwealth of Independent States, there is a unique opportunity for school children to participate and contribute to the enrichment of American-Russian relations through an organization called A.R.T. (Americans and Russians Together) Exchange. Art is a universal language which both children and adults the world over understand. It rises above cultural differences and bypasses governmental bureaucracies and politics. A.R.T. Exchange has been drawing the United States and Russia closer together by exchanging art and friendship.

After seeing an exhibit of Russian children's artwork, I was so impressed with the quality of the work that I made a visit to the former Soviet Union in 1987, and brought back more than thirty artworks for exhibition in our local schools. What started with the local schools in the Palm Beach area, expanded throughout the State of Florida, and finally developed into a national non-profit organization composed of public and private elementary and secondary schools across the United States.

American schools prepare drawings and paintings throughout the school year to be hand-delivered to Russian schools and students. Representatives of A.R.T. Exchange, who are teachers, professors and interested educators, act as art ambassadors bringing American children's art to Russia, and returning with the art of Russian children where it is prepared for exhibitions that travel to schools throughout the United States.

The art is matted, mounted and shrink-wrapped in preparation for exhibition. Ready-to-hang exhibits of Russian children's drawings and paintings travel among member schools in round-robin circulation. Exhibits are displayed for two weeks before being forwarded to the next location on the circuit.

The theme of peace and friendship between Russia and the United States is carried out in another facet of A.R.T. Exchange. Students are encouraged to write letters or send bookmarks with their addresses and photographs to develop pen-pal relationships. Through developing these relationships, children from the United States learn firsthand what children's lives are like in Russia, how Russian children see their world, and what is important to them. The children on the other side of the globe gain the same happy advantage. Students are learning more about each other and themselves, and they are often surprised to discover how much they have in common.

Young people everywhere share the dream of a world free from war and its devastation. Our responsibility as adults, is to give the children of the world hope - to ensure that political, economic or social differences do not compromise their future or ours. We can take a lesson from their enthusiasm, curiosity and optimism, their inherent trust of others - their belief in the future.

This art exchange is an excellent way to get to know and understand each other better. By extending our hands in friendship, we can play an important part in furthering the cause of peace between both countries, and ensuring that our future is a more peaceful one.

For information on participating in A.R.T. Exchange, contact Dr. Ron Rigli, 1493 Farmington Court, West Palm Beach, Florida 33414.
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Title Annotation:Americans and Russians Together Exchange program in art and friendship between students in the US and Russia
Author:Rigli, Ron
Publication:School Arts
Date:Apr 1, 1993
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