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Organization promotes peace through art

If you happened to notice glitter stuck to the bathroom sinks and door handles throughout Rothwell last weekend then you witnessed the aftermath of a unique hands-on art making event that, you guessed it, involved lots of glitter.

Katherine Josten, the founder and director of the Global Art Project for Peace, led an art making session in the Student Union on Thursday, Oct. 22. Mills students, staff and their children made hand shaped collages out of manila folders to represented what peace meant to them. Clippings from National Geographic magazines, markers, colored pencils and glitter – which was particularly popular with the children – were provided for participants to decorate their paper hands.

According to Josten, the purpose of the event was to raise awareness about the project and get more people involved.

“The organization was founded on the main idea that we can not have peace outside ourselves until we have peace within. When people create an art project for peace, they must feel inside that peace is possible,” said Josten.

Founded in 1993, the Global Art Project for Peace is an organization based out of Austin, Texas that is dedicated to creating a culture of peace through art. Josten, a professional artist, decided prior to starting the organization that she wanted to somehow help the world through her art. She promoted her first art exchange in 1994 by borrowing $1,500 from her parents to pay for posters, mailers and other advertisements.

Today, groups and individuals all over the world create works of art for the organization and then exchange finished pieces with participants in other countries every two years. The next exchange will take place in 2010. Josten believes that creating and exchanging this art heals on three levels: personally, communally and globally.

Participants range from professional artists to children. Any form of art can be submitted to the exchange, including but not limited to videos, paintings, quilts and ceramics.

Michaela Daystar, program coordinator for the Institute for Civic Leadership, which sponsored the event, said she wanted to introduce Mills to the project. The event was a precursor to a similar one planned for next February, after the registration process for the next exchange begins. In April, works of art completed by Mills students will be displayed on campus and eventually exchanged with participants from another country.

For those who register for the 2010 exchange and create a work of art, Josten will personally match them up with someone else to swap. She said she tries to pair people up who are geographically far away from one another. Registration for next year’s Global Art Project costs $15 for individuals or $20 for groups and can be done online or by mail.

Participants can also just design a paper hand, such as the ones created at the event, and mail it to the organization. They are accepted throughout the year and are displayed in the organization’s main office.

With children running around pouring glitter on their tiny paper cutout hands, and other students and staff having meaningful conversations as they decorated their art, the Global Art Project for Peace’s next on-campus event in the spring is sure to draw new participants eager to flex their creative skills for a good cause.