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Bluffton projects use art to sculpt friendships


Artist Jenita Landrum-Bittles, left, works with Alisha Vasquez on her project, at right, which will be part of the Common Threads Exhibit at Bluffton College.


BLUFFTON - Alisha Vasquez brought a pair of old cowboy boats she used for riding horses. Another girl contributed ballet slippers, while someone else donated walking shoes that were too small for her feet.

The items from Allen County girls were used to create a 6-foot-tall sculpture that will be displayed beginning tomorrow at Bluffton College.

The unusual artwork, which was designed through the local Appleseed Ridge Girl Scout Council, is part of the college's Common Threads Exhibit that features 14 community projects from Europe and six from Allen County.

In all the projects, people were expected to work together to build a sense of community and address issues of mutual concern.

“I hope this exhibit opens up dialogue,” said Elizabeth Holdeman, director of the Lion and Lamb Peace Arts Center at Bluffton College. “We are already seeing people who normally wouldn't be coming together, who are talking.”

With the Girl Scouts, whose project was called “Sharing Differences and Discovering Similarities,” there is no question it had that kind of impact.

Earlier this year, Appleseed executive director Jane Krites began pulling together girls from all over Allen County to participate.

Some lived in rural areas, while others were from the city.

They were of different socioeconomic backgrounds, ages, races, and religions.

For seven weeks, during two summer afternoons a week, the girls arrived or were transported to the Appleseed office, where they worked together to produce art and friendship with Columbus artist Jenita Landrum-Bittles.

At first, the girls were apprehensive about the experience, Ms. Krites said.

“They were a very separated group at first. But in the end, they emerged into a more cohesive group. During the second to last week, they were mourning the process. ... They knew it was coming to an end,” she said. “It was a pretty good impact here.”

Alisha's mother, Cindy, said she wanted to have her daughter involved for a new experience.

“I think she needs to get out and know other people, other than just who's in our troop and our school,” Ms. Vasquez, a Kalida Girl Scout leader said.

Ms. Krites said the girls did a number of art projects, including making body prints, friendship purses, and plaster casts of their hands.

One of Alisha's favorite projects was dressing up for the future. Alisha, 11, wore a wedding dress and a suit to represent herself as a reporter.

Ms. Krites said the Girl Scouts plan to display the sculpture at their office later this year. “Really, it's the first time that we've ever been that selective with girls for a project,” she said.

But it's not their first groundbreaking idea. In February, 2000, Appleseed Ridge became the first in the nation to begin holding Girl Scout meetings inside a local prison so girls could meet with their fathers.

Other Allen County projects included in the Bluffton College art display include pieces from Bath Elementary third-graders, the Riverside North Neighborhood Association Block Patrol, the Lima Community Center, the city of Lima's clergy task force, Ohio State University, and the Lion and Lamb Peace Arts Center.

The exhibit runs until Nov. 1. The gallery is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday and 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free.

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