Students lead community arts projects

In the last year, FIU demonstrated its commitment to community engagement through the arts, encouraging students and friends to participate in several creative initiatives. Last summer, FIU worked with hundreds of people of all ages on its Worlds Ahead Mural and Ship of Tolerance projects, as well as The Art of Giving program

By Martin Haro ’05

St. Timothy Parish School student Victoria Torres works on the mural in the GC Pit.

The Worlds Ahead Mural Project was an initiative of the FIU Art & Art History Department, the Miami Moving the Lives of Kids (MLK) Community Mural Project, Pi Kappa Alpha and Miami Children’s Hospital. About 50 people took part in the project, including FIU Art & Art History students and faculty, Pi Kappa Alpha brothers and children in the Frost Art Museum’s Cultural Arts & Community Service 2011 Youth Summer Camp. They worked on a large mural that was donated to the hospital’s Urgent Care Center.

The project, which got underway last June, transformed a 9-foot-by-4-foot blank piece of plywood into a representation of Florida’s official flora and fauna, inspired by the Everglades. The goal was to evoke hope and healing through FIU’s five strategic values: truth, freedom, respect, responsibility and excellence.

The mural is permanently – and prominently – displayed in the Urgent Care Center of Miami Children’s West Kendall Outpatient Center.

Thirty-two students in Art & Art History visiting lecturer Gretchen Scharnagl’s drawing class produced an additional two murals inspired by a visit to Pinecrest Gardens last spring. Those murals are on display in the hallways of the first floor at Miami Children’s Hospital’s South Miami location.

A model of the Ship of Tolerance was on display at the Frost through September. Among the people overseeing the project were Gretchen Scharnagl, a visiting lecturer in the FIU Department of Art + Art History; Dominique Breard, gallery manager at Wolfgang Roth + Partners Fine Art Gallery; and Murdock MacKenzie, the gallery’s director of Sales and Marketing.

FIU’s participation in the Ship of Tolerance project was the result of a partnership between the university and the Wolfgang Roth + Partners Fine Art Gallery. Children enrolled in the Frost’s summer camp worked with FIU students, faculty and gallery representatives on this special endeavor that celebrated our diversity.

These children and other kids from throughout Miami designed and painted hundreds of sailing canvas squares that were displayed around the city. The colorful squares were shown at the Conrad Miami on Brickell Avenue and in Miami Beach during Art Basel, at Smith & Wollensky and The Setai. The ship itself was docked behind the Miami Children’s Museum.

Previous versions of the Ship of Tolerance have been completed in Siwa, Egypt; Venice, Italy; and St. Moritz, Switzerland. The project was the brainchild of international artists Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, and its mission is to bring a message of tolerance and  peace to the world. Everyone who participated became an “Ambassador of Tolerance.”

Andrew Roisman (far right) was among the Pi Kappa Alpha brothers who hosted and participated in a TAG event at the Overtown Youth Center last May. He encouraged kids like Fabian Bell (left) and Harrry DeRolus, both of whom are enrolled in the center’s after-school program, to channel their creativity onto the sneakers.

The Art of Giving (TAG) initiative was born in professor Jacek Kolasinski’s art classes last spring during Diversity Week to promote global awareness. As the new chair of FIU’s Art & Art History Department, Kolasinski reached out to the Frost Art Museum and took the project into the community.

FIU students and community members gathered at more than a dozen locations around Miami – in collaboration with the Overtown Youth Center, the Little Haiti Cultural Center and The Institute of Black Family Life, among others – to decorate hundreds of donated Converse sneakers with original art. The sneakers were distributed to Haitian institutions throughout the summer.

Last May, Pilar Martin, a professor in the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, delivered some of those sneakers to the children of the Rose Mina de Diegue Orphanage in Port-Au-Prince. A second trip in July delivered more than 750 pairs of sneakers to three Haitian orphanages and a pediatric hospital.