Mural Project to Connect Cultures in Maine and Iraq
Two Countries + Two Classrooms + Two Street Art Murals = One Vision of Friendship
Between May 29 and June 1, Detroit-based artist Pat Perry (http://patperry.net/art/walls) will be painting a mural at 15 York Street in the Pepperell Mill Campus which will be informed by two groups of elementary students – fourth and fifth graders from the Biddeford Intermediate School in Biddeford, Maine, and fifth graders from the International School of Chouelfat in Sulaymaniyah Iraq. The project is called the One Blue Sky project (http://www.oneblueskyproject.org/) and is funded by The Good Works Foundation and coordinated by Engine, a Biddeford-based arts organization.
The public is invited to meet the artist and others involved at an open house on June 1, 2019 from 11am-2pm at the site of the mural.
One Blue Sky project strives to build bridges between youth of different cultures in order to create empathy and understanding. Artist Pat Perry will create a massive wall mural in each of the two cities of Biddeford, Maine and Sulaymaniyah, Iraq, that will incorporate the students’ ideas about friendship. Students will be involved in some of the painting.
The students will be supervised by their respective teachers, Kate Gerwig in the U.S. and Samantha Robison of nonprofit APTart in Iraq. Tammy Ackerman, co-founder and director of the Biddeford based nonprofit arts organization Engine is the local site coordinator. Doug and Lauren Sanford of the Pepperell Mill Campus are donating their wall for the mural. Jesse Galkowski and Ashley Zipp of Feels Like Media will be donating time recording the classroom interviews. Emad Rashidi, a filmmaker from Iran, will be producing a documentary on the project. These individuals are donating their time and talent to the artist team that is helping make this dream a reality.
Ackerman says, “The power of art to create understanding and empathy cannot be underestimated. I am so pleased to be working a professional group of people who are willing to give of their time for such a worthwhile effort.”
This unique bicontinental project is the brainchild of Laura Rodgers, who was inspired by the birth of her granddaughter to help children connect and break down barriers while creating works of art in their respective cities.
As Laura says, “I am a Jewish grandmother and I have a Muslim grand-daughter whom I adore. I found that I had misperceptions about faith and culture that were changed by this very personal experience. The One Blue Sky project grew from my desire to help create that kind of bond on a global scale. Helping children across the globe connect and recognize what they have in common, opens hearts and encourages understanding.”
Ultimately, the two finished wall murals will form a diptych, which, when viewed digitally, will be a symbol of our shared humanity that reaches across boundaries. The lesson is clear: we are more alike than different.
This project is possible because of The Good Works Foundation, created by Jerry Friedman with the express mission of teaching children the values of empathy, kindness, and love through books, TV series, and other media. Says Friedman, “Ten trekking years ago I met an inspiring person, a nun in Laos who gave discarded children hope and joy. She lived by the words of C.S. Lewis, ‘You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.’ She is the most caring person I’ve ever met and I took her picture. She travels with me every day, an image on my desktop, and I don’t even know her name. I feel One Blue Sky is a way for us to promote the principles she embodied. Nothing could be more uplifting than one child interacting personally with another to make a difference on this planet.”
If you are interested in interviewing Laura Rodgers or Jerry Friedman and attending the event in Biddeford on June 1, please contact Laura Rodgers at (508) 662-2683.