Looking at grim past ...kids paint a picture of peace

Published May 2, 2007


Bonnie Markey recognized the doubt in her students' eyes back in the spring of 2005 when she first told them that they would be making a painting that was taller than the classroom ceiling and more than twice as wide.

She had felt some doubt herself, along with a little anger and disappointment, when she realized she would have to redo a part of her submission - a videotape of students talking about a specific art genre - in order to become a nationally board certified teacher.

Unfortunately, she received a low score on that first submission, where students talked in very simple terms about Australian dot painting. In order to get a higher score, Markey knew she would have to draw her students out more. So for her second submission, she decided to have them talk about Picasso's giant mural, Guernica.

Guernica worked. Markey raised her score and eventually was nationally board certified. But out of that re-done submission grew an idea to create a giant mural like Picasso's as part of her classroom curriculum.

Completing such an enormous task might seem an impossible feat for one lone student or even a teacher.

But what if they all worked together?

"If each of us does a little, " Markey said to her students, "we can accomplish big things."

Markey then told them about Kids' Guernica, a worldwide art project started by Art Japan Network back in 1995, the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II. Children throughout the world had already created giant murals reflecting a message of world peace that were the same size (11.5 by 26 feet) as Picasso's Guernica. If all 900 or so students pitched in, Hudson Elementary might be able to add its own giant peaceful message to the mix.

Twelve students drew sketches of doves that were enlarged onto nylon-coated vinyl panels and fastened together. Kindergarten and first-grade students painted feathers on the birds. The rest took turns painting dots and lines on the giant panels.

Hudson Elementary students, including some who have since moved on to Hudson Middle, completed the mural. From November 2006 through early January 2007 it was displayed at the Picasso Ceramic Exhibit at the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art in Tarpon Springs, along with Picasso's Dove painting.

Last week, Markey and her family tended to the hours-long task of once again hanging the mural in the school cafeteria for a special family art night.

It is still hanging there for the time being, but that may not be the end of it.

Markey, who has submitted the mural to be an official part of the Kids' Guernica project, is hoping the mural will hang elsewhere. She already has offered it to Virginia Tech with the thought that it might help others heal. She's also looking into the possibility of having it hang in Beijing during the 2008 Olympics. At the very least, Markey is thinking about a "peace" exchange of sorts with a school from another country.

"It would be great if we could display their mural here, " she said, "and have them display our mural there."

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For more information about Art Japan Network's Kids' Guernica, go to www.kids-guernica.org.