When Art Education Meets Human Rights

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

For many students, September means not only back to school but getting to face some of their fears and challenges. Students from the River East Transcona School Division (RETSD) come from a very large and diverse population with various cultures being represented. Some of them tend to be isolated within their own culture while others come from a low socio-economic background. All of this can create negative effects such as racism, bullying and violence. This year, an exemplary art project was put in place to unite five schools within the RETSD – one elementary school, three junior high schools and one high school. Students worked with the guidance of Canadian Artist Alejandra Diaz Romain and Angel Audrey, art teacher. 

Students walking by the Museum

Students from River East Transcona School Division on a walk for International Peace Day on September 21, 2013. Photo Credit: Jessica Sigurdson / CMHR.

What is the goal of this project?

The goal is to promote peace through art around the world. The project leaders believe that through Art Education, they can help students to gain a sense of belonging and pride in their schools and their community. This sense of belonging will help to promote solving problems with non-violent solutions. The project was funded in part by the Manitoba Arts Council through an ArtsSmarts II Grant. The grant paid for the artist’s time working with students in five schools.

Students standing besides human size statues

Walk For Peace Sculpture Project in the making. Photo Credit: Angel Audrey / Kildonan East Collegiate.

Here’s what Tania Wiebe, student at Kildonan East Collegiate had to say about peace… 

“What does Peace mean to you? Personally, I think peace is the oneness and calmness between two or more people. I heard once that before you can share peace, you have to be at peace with yourself. A great artist, Alberto Giacometti, tried to show peace with his walking statues. That is what my school and I did; we made statues of walking people holding peace symbols. There were so many different varieties of walking, just like a different personality for every statue. Not only did they show the peace of the artist but also had parts of them inside. Take mine for instance; mine has a deep meaning in it. The long fingers and tussled hair, it looks creepy, right? Well, my message was that even the scariest of people are peaceful as they walk. Men, women or children all have one thing in common in their Walk For Peace. They may all have different symbols, different stances but each and every one of them has the same meaning. Peace. I have something for you to think about today. Have you ever dismissed an odd-looking person because of how they look? In the end we all walk, speak, and express ourselves. Why should anyone else have to work harder to express themselves? Make peace with yourself and spread it on, maybe to a person each day. It doesn’t seem like much to you, but to them it means the world.”

5 tall statues holding the Earth surrounded by smaller statues

Final sculpture project. This picture show the life sized projects created by grade 12 students. They are each holding one of the International symbols of Peace as they stand together to hold up the world. The smaller projects around them were created by Kildonan East Collegiate grade 9 and 10 students and they are also all walking and holding the international symbols of Peace. There are 4 other schools that have been involved with the project and they have also created the small sculptures that will be part of the collective display. Photo Credit: Angel Audrey / Kildonan East Collegiate.

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is working with teachers, academics and researchers to increase the student knowledge base, provide opportunities for critical thinking, and inspire action in support of human rights. The Museum will help fill human-rights education gaps – not only through its own content when it opens in September 2014 as a national educational hub, but through strong partnerships with educators at all levels.

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