All over the world there are examples of the arts bringing divided communities together. Theater, dance, museum programs, visual art and film can all build bridges.
Murals provide an opportunity to speak to a community, for community participation in creating art, and can revitalize blighted neighborhoods. In Honduras, which has the highest murder rate in the world, street artists began using murals to express a message of community resistance to gun violence. Despite government resistance, murals help communities join to resist the gang violence that is destroying their lives. Working with international cooperation, murals have been key in developing youth leaders and empowering women. In Portugal the Muraliza Street Art festival in the beautiful city of Cascais, brings together street artists from all over the world. And in Northern Ireland where murals played a role in the civil war, marking areas of segregation, community art projects have worked on replacing murals with Peace Walls and making neighborhoods welcoming spaces.
In Allentown, PA, artist Thomas Allen worked with the community to build a sculpture. In New Orleans Candy Chang set up a blackboard asking people to add their contribution to “before I die….” Sparking a global movement. Natalie Lemne writes about the power of the work of Iranian artists Bahareh and Farzaneh Safarani, visiting the US, their work not able to be displayed in Iran. The art doesn’t have to be political she writes; “If we see ourselves in a work of art, we like it more. If the art happens to have been created by an Iranian artist, or any non-American artist, a bridge has been built, even if it’s tenuous.” There are countless more examples. We have collected some in our pinterest board.
South Bay Hands on Art was created 30 years ago to address the problem of the reduction of art funding in our local schools. In recent years the education world has woken up to the immense value of art education in schools. We are blessed with a district and community support through Redondo Beach Education Foundation and private schools that recognizes the important role that art and creativity plays in our children’s future 21st century lives.
A by-product that we want to recognize is the community that Hands on Art builds in our schools. Over 300 Redondo Beach parent volunteers come together to be trained by a local artist in six workshops each year. The docents bring the projects to our schools, working with teachers, children and other parent helpers, building strong relationships. While our purpose is teaching art, the byproduct is parent engagement in our schools, and in our local art community. Given that authentic parent involvement is found to be the most important factor in student success, those relationships create strong schools and a strong community.
Our community doesn’t stop at the city line however. At South Bay Hands on Art, we are most proud of our Reaching Out program, where using left over supplies, Redondo Beach volunteers and lots of generous donations we take Hands on Art to schools in Lennox and Compton, as well as to seniors at several centers. This year we are expanding to school sites in Watts and Hawthorne.