Local children, artists participate in 'How Will They Know Us: An American/Iraqi Mural Project'

Date: 12/22/2008

Northampton As part of a venture called the Art Miles Mural Project, which seeks to include the voices of youth/children that are often missing from the important current conversations, 12 to 15 Northampton area youth/children will be painting a 12 foot by five foot canvas mural with local artists Lydia Nettler and Harriet Diamond and Iraqi artist Thamer Dawood beginning at 4 p.m. on Jan. 9 and continuing on Jan. 10 at 11 a.m. at the Northampton Center for the Arts. The group of painters, working in collaboration with the artists will create the design of the mural as well as paint it.

"How Will They Know Us: An American/Iraqi Mural Project" is a project of the Iraqi Children's Art Exchange (ICAE), an art-inspired cultural exchange and educational project that has been based in Northampton since 2000. ICAE founding director Claudia Lefko and Iraqi artist Dawood are coordinating the Iraq Art Mile (IAM) as part of a much larger project which emerged in support of the UNESCO "Decade of Peace and Non-violence Among Children of the World: 2000-2010: The Art Miles Murals."

The mural painting at the Center for the Arts is one of a series with the theme: "Building a Culture of Peace: Who Are We/Who Are They." Three murals have already been painted with Iraqi children in Jordan. The project will culminate in Egypt in September 2010 with an exhibition of thousands of murals created by children and youth from around the world.

Lefko, local activist and teacher, explains that transcending the barriers of language, culture and politics, the murals generated by this cross-cultural project offer a creative way for youth/children to express themselves. "Art can help us understand ourselves in our particular place and moment in time. And it provides a glimpse into the lives of others," she said. This cross-cultural project aims to increase understanding and respect and goodwill between youth/children in the U.S. and in the Middle East, she added.

Children/youth ages 10 years to 18 years from several area schools will be participating in this collaborative project, including several who have been involved in the Iraqi Children's Art Exchange since 2001 when they were students of Lefko's at Mt. Brook Children's Center in South Deerfield.

Lefko hopes that members of the community will visit the center at 17 New South St., third floor, to watch the painters in action.

There will be an opening reception for the artists on Jan. 11 from 3 to 5 p.m. at the center. Murals created by Iraqi children/youth will be displayed along with the new Paradise City mural.