Stu­dents call at­ten­tion to global con­flicts with art

Austin American-Statesman - - COMMUNITY NEWS - By Heather­bon­ham cedar Park-le­an­der States­man

Art stu­dents at Run­ning Brushy Mid­dle School took lumps of smooth, white clay and shaped them into bones of all dif­fer­ent sizes. As they worked, they talked about in­ter­na­tional con­flicts and geno­cide.

They shaped clay into skulls and jaw bones, leg and arm bones. Some made pha­langes — the tiny bones in hands and feet. Un­der the guid­ance of art teach­ers Melissa Walta and Adri­enne Hodge, the stu­dents dis­cussed topics such as the Holo­caust and eth­nic cleans­ing, and they learned of on­go­ing con­flicts through­out the world, such as in the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of the Congo and So­ma­lia.

The Run­ning Brushy bones, 275 in all, will be­come part of the project One Mil­lion Bones, an ef­fort to raise aware­ness of on­go­ing con­flicts. The bones rep­re­sent the mil­lions of peo­ple who lost their lives or have sur­vived such in­ci­dents in re­cent his­tory.

For ev­ery bone do­nated and reg­is­tered with Stu­dents Re­build, the Be­zos Fam­ily Foun­da­tion will do­nate a $1 to hu­man­i­tar­ian group CARE for re­lief sup­port and for re­build­ing pro­grams that ben­e­fit young peo­ple in hard-hit ar­eas. The project cul­mi­nates in a large-scale art in­stal­la­tion in Washington from June 8 to 10.

Hodge, who is in her third year teach­ing, said the project of­fers stu­dents a sense of con­nec­tion to prob­lems in other coun­tries. “There’s of­ten a sense of oth­er­ness, like ‘Oh, that’s over there,’ ” she said. “There was a lot of si­lence when we first in­tro­duced this. Then I was blown away with how the stu­dents got on board.”

Eighth-graders Ciera Colvin and Danielle Ci­api both said they were glad to par­tic­i­pate.

“It was pretty pow­er­ful,” Danielle said. “It’s pretty cool know­ing that we’re part of a big move­ment, and it’s not just art.”

Colvin said she liked the project be­cause it “showed me that there’s still some­thing to fight for, that we can make the world a bet­ter place with more peace­ful means.”

Walta said the project also opened dis­cus­sions about is­sues closer to home, such as racism and how art can be more than just self-ex­pres­sion. “This showed them that art can be part of com­mu­nity outreach,” she said. “They be­gan look­ing past them­selves.”

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