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L.A. Youths Think Globally Thanks to ARTsmart

LMU's ARTsmart program recently brought together the student body at Westside Leadership Magnet School in Marina del Rey, Calif. for “Traveling Forward: Building Bridges for Global Awareness,” an event that encouraged leadership training and global awareness through art.

“As our future leaders, we hope these students become more aware of the global community and gain a better understanding of our similarities rather than our differences,” said Terry Lenihan, associate professor of art education and director of the ARTsmart program. “This was the first time we took the work we do in the classroom and made it real and physical.”

The K-8 students spent the morning and early afternoon constructing a bridge of straws, wood, tape and string that surrounded an inflatable globe. Some students also worked with L.A.-based artist and activist Kim Abeles to create Travel Forward banners, visual depictions of how students perceive travel and what they think it will look like in the future.  The event concluded with a dedication announcing Westside Leadership has been named a Global Awareness magnet school by the district. Lenihan spoke about the benefits of global awareness and the future of the project.

“The students developed the skills to work together and build something as a group. Using the metaphor of the bridge, I hope they learned how they too can build a bridge to others in the world,” Lenihan said. “This has really been the highlight of the work I’ve done and it’s just the beginning. This kind of work will continue.”

Amber Helmsetter, senior studio arts major with an emphasis in art education, served as one of the artist-mentors who helped guide the students through the process; she also played a major role in planning the event. Helmsetter said that the experience was fulfilling and that it encouraged her to pursue her career goals of working in art education. “It was so exciting to see the event come together. It all went up and down in one day,” Helmsetter said. “It also was a huge opportunity for me to help young children to create and to inspire them to learn about the world through art.”

“Traveling Forward” was the culmination of an ongoing art project organized by ARTsmart, a community service program of LMU's Department of Art and Art History, in collaboration with Cindy Maguire at Adelphi University on Long Island. It began in Los Angeles in spring 2009, traveled to schools in New York and Theranda, Kosovo and returned to Los Angeles.  For more information about the ARTsmart program, please click here.