© 2019 by Sarah Cornette

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"The most important thing was that we all cooperated together and we made something all together for the first time.

I will always remember the beautiful moments we had when we were drawing and laughing." 

                       

~ L., a student in Thessaloniki, Greece

Can the creation of collaborative art help heal trauma and divisiveness, and create a lasting sense of community among very different groups of people?

 

Is there a process that can empower all children to participate fully and value each other’s contributions?

 

How can an artist/teacher balance serving and guiding the participants, so that theirs is the vision represented in the work?

 

These were the questions in my mind and heart when I was awarded the Fulbright Distinguished Teaching Award to spend the spring of 2019 in Greece.  I chose Greece as the destination for my research because of similar economic, social, and cultural crises gripping our two nations (see where).  As an artist and art therapist who became an educator, I have a need to understand an experience through the making of an object--which is how the mural idea was born.  And like all great art projects, it became its own force--growing and changing as more people asked to participate and invested their energy.  In May 2019 I returned from Greece to a public furor in my own country over the treatment of asylum seekers on our border--clearly, the mural needed a new panel with the perspective of those children.

 

To date, the mural has been created by four groups of children in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Thessaloniki, Greece, Samos Island, Greece, and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.  Each group has responded with ideas and images to the question, “What’s important in our community?” The answers to this question have been literal and symbolic, disturbing and joyful all at once.  The well-researched process I used to facilitate the mural-making became more of a set of options I adapted to meet the needs of each group and the context of creation.

 

The answers to my initial set of questions? 

 

Can the creation of collaborative art help heal trauma and divisiveness, and create a lasting sense of community among very different groups of people?

Maybe.  See more under impact.

 

Is there a process that can empower all children to participate fully and value each other’s contributions?

Yes.  More under process.

 

How can an artist/teacher balance serving and guiding the participants, so that theirs is the vision represented in the work?

Only by supporting the participants' agency in decision making. 

Inevitably the aesthetic values of the facilitator will impact the work anyway--there is no neutrality.  

Why call it Same Difference?
The name was inspired by a children’s book from Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw, called Same, Same, But Different.  In the book, Elliot (in America) and Kailash (in India) are pen pals.  Through letters and pictures, they.... 

about

Sarah Cornette

I’ve been an artist, art therapist, and art educator for 20+ years. Currently I teach elementary school children in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  I use my passion for equity in access to the arts to empower all of my students.