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Published: 4/16/2004

Group seeks artful approach to social issues

BY CLYDE HUGHES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The ability of artwork to move, motivate, and inspire people is a tool Dr. Lorna Gonsalves and members of a new nonprofit group hope to use to bring people of different races and cultures together for social justice and human rights.

Dr. Gonsalves, a former associate provost at Bowling Green State University, recently founded an organization called Human Values for Transformative Action. The organization is designed to develop creative ways to address issues dealing with social and racial justice and human rights.

The organization is holding a news conference at the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo, 1838 Parkwood Ave., at 5:30 p.m. today to talk about the Community He(Art) Beats program. It will bring together a collaboration of minority groups, the

poor, and art students to turn their view of the world into art.

Dr. Gonsalves has spent most of her academic life examining racial justice and human rights as an educator at BGSU and associate executive director of the Institute of Comparative Human Rights at the University of Connecticut.

"My conversations with youth around the world suggest an urgent need for innovative programs that involve whole communities in attending to the needs of marginalized groups and that connect people of goodwill with each other," Dr. Gonsalves said. "The Community He(Art) Beats program . . . will be used as a model for informing, inspiring, and involving communities as they seek to build an inclusive justice and a lasting peace."

More than 100 art students from BGSU, the University of Toledo, and Lourdes and Owens Community colleges as well as independent artists will work with minority and social groups to create art that depicts their concerns and needs.

Dr. Gonsalves said she hopes the artwork will raise campus and public consciousness and prompt action among community leaders and the general population.

"In the past, audiences have been struck by the honest, provocative, and revealing nature of the visual images," Dr. Gonsalves said. "While people can walk away from a lecture or set aside an article in print, a visual image has the potential for grabbing audiences and staying with them."

Marc Folk, interim executive director of the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo, said the program is a way that artists can make an impact and comment on social and human rights issues in northwest Ohio. He said he believes the students will be enthusiastic about the opportunity.

"I think when you take college students and have them talk to traditionally marginalized people about their needs and problems and have the students turn that into something visual, it is one of the most powerful ways art can impact a community," Mr. Folk said. "I think a program like this can transform students in a very positive way."

Dawn Miller, a pottery student at Lourdes, said she was moved when Dr. Gonsalves recently explained the program to her class. The 39-year-old Sylvania Township woman said she believes Community He(Art) Beats is unique enough to spur discussion, collaboration, and action.

"I think this is the perfect time to do it," Ms. Miller said. "It's something that's so desperately needed in this community. There are issues involving poverty and race that need to be addressed."

Contact Clyde Hughes at:

chughes@theblade.com

or 419-724-6095.



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