International Education Week is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and Department of Education to highlight the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide. Our two departments work together to promote programs that prepare our students for a global environment and attract future leaders from abroad.
To help celebrate this year’s International Education Week, I had the honor of being a part of the art exhibit opening in ED’s Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) building on Nov. 16. LBJ always showcases wonderful student 2- and 3-D works, along with writing and film and animation by students, and this new collection was exceptional in every way.
The art comes from Arte Postale, VSA’s visual art and writing exchange program. VSA is an international organization on arts and disability founded by Jean Kennedy Smith, and its mission is to provide arts and education opportunities for people with disabilities. The Arte Postale theme this year was “Snapshot: A Glimpse Through My Lens,” which encouraged students to remember an important time in their lives.
The exhibit features the work of 30 students from many countries around the world, including Kuwait, Ecuador, Egypt, Kenya, Nicaragua, and the Philippines as well as the U.S. One of the artists, Kelly, traveled with her mom 16 hours by train from Indiana to take part in the opening! Kelly greeted the audience after the show and answered questions about her drawing (shown here), which captured her favorite holiday memory.
All of the writing and visual art from the exhibit was presented in a beautiful book that we were all given a copy of and is available at the exhibit. When I read it cover to cover, I was amazed by how talented the artists are. I couldn’t possibly pick a favorite, but being from Kansas, the piece titled “The Ruby Slipper” from The Wizard of Oz brought a smile to my face.
The ceremony before the ribbon cutting was equally terrific. The student performers stole the show and touched all of us. Several of them spoke about the impact that art has on their lives by helping them overcome challenges. In the words of 16-year-old Amy Stone, “When I’m on stage I feel big. . . . The arts don’t judge you.” The ceremony closed with students singing an original song by their teacher Tom Sweitzer, “Someone Big,” which embodied the message of the event: that arts education—an education that encourages students to express their knowledge—is important for ALL children.
If you are in Washington, I encourage you to visit the Arte Postale exhibit, which will be on display in LBJ through December. Please remember to sign the guest book; the messages will be given to the artists after the exhibit comes down. I would like to thank all of the students, their teachers, and those who supported them along the way for their hard work.
Alexa Posny is assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services.