There are many definitions for the word “consideration,” but the one I most prefer is “a thoughtful concern for others.” To consider implies developing thoughtful, empathetic judgments or opinions, open-mindedly and respectfully comparing different perspectives.
The visual language of art can speak to us all, and can contribute to this process of consideration without the need to know another written or spoken language. A focus on art ideas or artworks can foster understanding and consideration on social issues that resonate for all people. And the continuing development of the Internet has provided a vehicle to reach people around the world through art, in ways that were not possible before, to consider needs and concerns of others, often very far away.
This past summer, in SchoolArts’ Folk Art Extravaganza in Santa Fe, New Mexico, we were delighted to meet and hear from Naomi Natale, a young woman who has taken advantage of these opportunities to develop an art-based program to bring attention to global genocide while raising funds to aid survivors. One Million Bones is asking people to become one of one million and each make or donate a handmade “bone” to represent lives lost through genocide.
Plans call for one million bones to be placed on the Mall in Washington, D.C. in the spring of 2013. An initial installation of 50,000 bones was laid in the street in downtown Albuquerque, New Mexico, last year in a moving ceremony, and other installations, called the Road to Washington, are taking place right now around the United States.
Where did this idea come from? Natale, while working in Kenya as a photographer, was struck by an irresolvable contradiction: an artistic desire to tell stories through images and a nagging doubt about the effectiveness of her own photography. Social art practices such as One Million Bones grew from Natale’s desire to make a social impact through education, hands-on art-making, and public art installations. She developed One Million Bones in response to the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
Natale is presenting and leading a hands-on workshop on One Million Bones at the National Art Education Association Convention in Fort Worth, Texas, in March 2013, in time for teachers to involve their students if they choose. Students of all ages are invited to participate with the understanding that you choose how to introduce this to your students. For example, with very young children you might base your discussion on issues of hunger or homelessness.
What most impressed our group about Natale was that this was her idea and that she was determined to make it work. Every aspect of One Million Bones has been carefully considered and professionally presented, from the OMB website, the curriculum materials, the videos, the installations, and a TED talk.
Art teachers so often work alone and don’t always feel so powerful, but Natale’s example shows that one person can make a difference. She can be your inspiration; now consider what you can do. Choose a cause you believe in or enlist your students in choosing, and consider how art can share that concern. You can make a difference.