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Art and Global Awareness

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Two boys look at the Peace Mandala
More than 500 elementary school children created a gigantic Peace Mandala at Duluth's Piedmont Elementary School. Here Nick Adkins and Jacob Borham check out the student drawings and messages.

UMD Brings the Power of Peace to Children

A child talks to Ms De
Jacob Koski, (left) has a question for Mousumi De (right). De worked with Piedmont Elementary School students on the mandala.
Teachers who worked on the Mandala project
The Peace Mandala was a joint effort between UMD and Piedmont School. These folks made it happen: Top row (l-r): Alison Aune, art education majors Sam Corbett, Kaitlin Sauer, Kinzie Longley, Kristen Ellingson, Erin Kobernick, and visiting lecturer Mousumi De. Bottom row, more art education majors: Gabby Gerster (in red), Paige Hanenburg, Shannan Bjerketredt, Alison Blake, and Becky Evers-Gerdes (Piedmont Elementary principal).
alison and mousemi
Alison Aune and Mousumi De led the Peace Mandala Project for the Duluth community. Aune has been bringing inclusive and diverse art projects to the region for over two decades. She was a 2013 finalist for the University of Minnesota President's Community-Engaged Scholar Award.

Art teachers, art education students, university faculty, and 500 grade school children spent a day encircled in peace. They didn't just talk, they built an amazing work, a huge Peace Mandala. UMD Professor Alison Aune, visiting lecturer, Indiana University's Associate instructor Mousumi De, and UMD art education students, collaborated with Duluth's Piedmont Elementary School. Together with school administrators and teachers, they involved all of the students in Grades K-5 in this day-long endeavor.

This community-based project wasn't only about creating a piece of art, it was designed to engage an entire school in thinking globally and thinking about peace --- peace in the classroom, peace between students, peace in the community, and peace between countries.

The mandala is a circle shape. In fact the word “mandala” comes from the Sanskrit and ancient Indian culture where the image was used as a form of prayer and meditation. Many say these images elicit a sense of balance and peace.

In nature, mandalas are found in seeds and flowers and nests. Mandalas are often found in architecture and art. Churches have giant “Rose Windows” of stained glass. Government buildings have domes. For centuries people walked circular labyrinths to think about life's journey or to become open to insights. Mandalas are found across cultures including Slavic, Celtic, Islamic, Navajo, and many others.

In many ways, the most important part of a mandala is the process of creating it. Its special message is said to bring clarity, serenity, and peace to a busy mind. By building a mandala as a group, and concentrating on its message of kindness and calm, it becomes a powerful tool for peace.

All morning and afternoon on April 17, 2014, groups of students arrived in the Piedmont Elementary School gymnasium. They first heard the story of peace mandalas and the message of a peaceful environment. Students answered the questions, "What is Peace to me?" and "What is Peace in my School?" The topics of bullying, understanding different cultures, and unkindness were addressed.

Then each student chose a part of the mandala for his or her own artistic creation. Colors and collage pieces flew together and, as the hours progressed, the mandala took shape. At the end of the day, all the students came together to celebrate their project and their day of peace. The finished mandala, measuring 13 x 20 feet, will be framed and hung in the school media center.

This isn't the end for the Peace Mandala. The Peace Mandala will be available for viewing online as an Interactive Peace Mandala later in June, where visitors can click on some of the art pieces and see the message the students have written. They can also view a short film about the process of making the Peace Mandala. The Peace Mandala will travel around the planet on the Internet, enabling the world to share the peace message with Duluth.

Aune consistently brings progressive global arts education strategies to her university classrooms, the UMD's Tweed Museum of Art, and into the community. Since 2010, she has invited global arts educators to UMD as part of the Visual Culture Lecture Series. These art educators give classroom lectures and public lectures for area art teachers at the Tweed Museum of Art.

The guests have included Ann Lindstrom from Finland in 2010, Maragreta Wictorin Wallen and Eva Cronquest from Sweden in 2011, and Mousumi De in 2013. In spring 2014, Mousumi De returned for an expanded residency and an outreach experience — the Peace Mandala project with UMD art education students, Funding for De's visit and the Peace Mandala project came from a University of Minnesota Imagine Project Grant.

Mousumi De is an independent artist and researcher, working with visual arts, media and new media for education, social development projects, and for peace building. She is an associate instructor at Indiana University and she is working on her Ph.D. in art education curriculum and instruction. She is a research fellow with Indian Institute of Sustainable Development, New Delhi, India, editor of the newsletter for the International Society for Education through Art, and reviewer and member of editorial board for the International Journal for Education through Art. Her research interests lie at the intersection of art (including visual, media and new media) and technology, peace building and peace education.

Art education students in two Art in Elementary School Methods classes prepared the mandala framework, cutting the paper, and organizing the supplies. As part of their in-class field experiences they went out to Piedmont School on the Peace Mandala day to join the assembly of 250 children in the morning and 250 in the afternoon = 500 children.

Photos on this page were taken by Lucas Anderson, a UMD alumnus and art education teacher at Marshall School, who assisted with the Peace Mandala project.

bug 4 student drawing mandala piece
Bug Love. This is one of the many creative messages collected on the Peace Mandala. Crayons and colored paper were the media for the work. Shaunae Cloud added a colorful peace sign.

Large group making the Peace Mandala Kiara works on her art Planning the project
The work has begun.

Kindergardener Kiara Hotchkiss works on her drawing.

Mousumi De with art education majors: Paige Hanenburg, Nicole Jerome, Sara McMillen, Courtney Bailey, and Rachel Berg.
Large group of student learns how to make the mandala Children's art work Children's art work
This group is learning how they will join the mandala creation project. Note the numbers that direct the viewers to see the work on the website. Smiling children holding hands. What a great message of peace.

By Cheryl Reitan, May 2014.

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Cheryl Reitan,

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