Art Not Hate Workshops: Transforming Conflict into Creative Collaboration

How can we, as a people, creatively respond to the inevitable competition over natural resources, financial capital, and political power in ways that affirm life and the survival of the human race?

The future of our planet rests solely on the ability of our youth to grow into responsible citizens and creative problem solvers. We have to stimulate young minds and shatter stereotypes that prevent us from solving problems peacefully rather than resorting to aggression. Art Not Hate workshops teach consensus-building skills in a diverse group by promoting understanding and creative problem solving through artistic means.

When we react without thinking, we are more likely to react aggressively. Art Not Hate workshops use artistic metaphors to lead students in conceptualizing and working through fear—the source of hatred and prejudice. It promotes art as a method for understanding conflict as well as a tool for building peace within a community.

If we fear what we do not understand, then we can use art as a way to reach understanding and extinguish fear. If we teach our children now to be responsible, empathic citizens, then we can trust them to carry this message of peace into the future.

Taking turns: nonverbal communication

Oftentimes, misunderstandings arise out of our unwillingness or inability to “read” each other, listen to each other, or take turns speaking. In this activity, workshop students pair off and have a “conversation” without speaking: using only marks, shapes, and words on a piece of paper to communicate their ideas. Students practice paying attention to and analyzing what their interlocutor is telling them before making their own marks in response. No talking!

Creating tension, building trust: the wisdom of a rubber band

Tension is created when there exists a strong pull in two opposite directions, such as when two people have differing opinions. Opinions are like the two ends of a taut rubber band: drop one side, and the other side gets hurt. Hang onto that other side, and those two opinions can coexist peacefully. Trust is developed when partners respect each other enough not to drop their side.

Shoah Scroll: painting toward inner peace

The Shoah Scroll is one of Bob Barancik’s seminal pieces, circulating around his meditations on injustice and lamentations for family members lost during the Holocaust. A combination of approximately ten separate drawings bound together into a 10-foot scroll, one sees a progression from images of dark hues and stagnant figures, to bright, increasingly luminous colors and dancing shapes, as the process of creation brings about a joy for life and a celebration of life’s beauty. Workshop students discuss the rejuvenating effects of art, and then create their own “Youthful Scrolls of Exultation,” meditating on injustices in their own lives and the process of working through pain creatively.

Building brushstrokes into peace: learning to love what we can’t control

Keith Lebenzon, the late owner of Magic Paper, based in Oregon, handmade each one of his famous paintbrushes from a stalk of bamboo that he harvested himself. Each handle was unique: some were long and narrow, others short and fat, others knobby and crooked like the arthritic backs of old Chinese monks. Like life, the strokes made by Lebenzon brushes were not always predictable, but each one was full of natural beauty. Workshop students make marks with Lebenzon's brushes, choosing just the right brush for each mark and appreciating the unique strokes they make.

Clay transformations: building and rebuilding

As humans, we are responsible for shaping ourselves into the best people we can be. We fine-tune our skills and learn as best we can how to get along peacefully with others. We work hard to achieve our goals and spend tireless hours molding our lives, like pieces of soft clay, into the kinds we want to live. Sometimes, though, events beyond our control keep us from realizing our goals and, like a massive hand, smash our clay dreams into a multi-colored pancake. This activity teaches workshop students how to pick up their clay and start again, molding and remolding, until their dreams are reality.

Drawing on conflict: seeing our resolution

It’s difficult to see the best possible solutions while we’re in the midst of our problems. A conflict has at least one facet for every person involved, and many more unseen factors that are sometimes impossible to describe using words. In this activity, workshop students draw a recent conflict in marker, “see” all existing sides, and then draw their solution. When our conflicts are made physical through expressive means, we find it much easier to approach them with a level head and make sound, unbiased decisions.

Crossing boundaries into empathy: drawing on another’s work

Life is like a mountain. In order to appreciate the sheer magnitude and beauty of it, we have to circle around it, see it from every perspective. Forward Thinking Initiatives president Debra Campbell leads Art Not Hate workshop students in an activity to foster empathy by seeing life from another person’s point of view. Students draw a symbol of their personal beliefs on a piece of paper, then take one step to the left and repeat the act again, all the way around the table. When they return to their original place, they find their symbol has been changed. A conversation ensues: was it enhanced, or eclipsed? Were the additions constructive, or were boundaries crossed? Debra Campbell is the recipient of the 2007 Kauffman Foundation’s Platinum Award and Creative Tampa Bay’s Creative Catalyst Award, 2008.

Identifying conflict, reaching resolution: power, values, and resources

Forward Thinking Initiatives president Debra Campbell leads Art Not Hate workshop students in identifying the sources of conflict (power, values, lack of resources) and finding creative solutions. In one exercise, students are given different amounts or qualities of art materials and asked to complete an assignment. Afterward, students discuss how the materials they were given impacted the outcome of their assignment. When they are given equal amounts of resources and asked to complete the assignment again, another discussion ensues concerning the outcome of their work. Debra Campbell is the recipient of the 2007 Kauffman Foundation’s Platinum Award and Creative Tampa Bay’s Creative Catalyst Award, 2008.

Rogues Gallery Classroom Learning Sheet and Activities

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Hillel Students Find Expression and Meaning in Art, Not Hate

A way to express what matters to them; a creative solution to real conflict. This is what students at The Hillel School of Tampa found recently in art, not hate.

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