We talk a LOT about unity in our virtues classes. Everyone agrees that it is the thing that will fix all of the world's issues, but asking young kiddos full of energy and emotion and strong opinions to actually live in unity is asking a lot. I posed the question, If we can get along and live in perfect unity with one another in our family or in our classes, how can we ask the rest of the world to consider unity? Silence.
I LOVE collaborative art projects with young people because there's a huge element of compromise involved and individual opinions and expressions all get their space. To me, it's the epitome of unity! If one person is an impressive artist, and another has never even held a paintbrush, there might be an initial feeling of, I don't want that person to ruin my beautiful canvas! But in the end, everyone is quite happy with the results because all of the diverse approaches add value. It becomes undeniable when you see it on the canvas. It's actually better together.
Five years ago, I did one large collaborative canvas with a group of youth and it turned out AMAZING! They each researched a member of the Yaran (the imprisoned Baha'is in Iran) and designed a fish to represent that person's life. The results were beautiful and the newspaper even came out and did a piece on their project. With older kids, the element of research or themed segments makes the work more interesting flexible.
These days I'm working with a much younger group with members ranging from ages 6 to fourteen. With the theme of unity in mind, I outlined in pencil, a circle and enough rays coming out of it for each child to have a segment for their own art. We set up shop on a Dollar Tree shower curtain and got to mess making. Each kiddo just grabbed a canvas, painted a segment, and passed it on.
In the end, we have 8 really different canvases with a lot of different things going on on each. Each child is represented on each canvas. I've gone back and added a bit of a quote about unity in the center sun, and I'm going to wrap them. Tonight, before we leave for our service project, each child will get to open a canvas to keep, and then we're going to the Alzheimer's ward to hang out and chit chat and give them a canvas that the kids worked together to make. Then, of course, we're going out for ice cream.
Without even realizing it, the kids made art for themselves and for each other. I can't wait to see them open their canvases and realize that they get to keep one. A little Ayyam-i-Ha surprise! And the best part is that it can serve as a memory of working in unity with one another.