At their retreat last week, the Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education visited an exhibit that uses the power of art and prose to promote diversity. They became the latest members of the AAPS community to visit Embracing Our Differences SE Michigan at Gallup Park and three other locations in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.
The exhibit consists of 60 large banners spread across Gallup Park and Leslie Science and Nature Center in Ann Arbor, and Ypsilanti’s Riverside Park and Parkridge Community Center Park. Each of the banners include artwork and a slogan on the themes of diversity, equity, and inclusion to get individuals to think and talk about topics that children and adults don’t always have the words to express.
The program here in Washtenaw County is inspired by an effort that has been in place for nearly 20 years in Sarasota, Florida. Much of the artwork and slogans on display locally were initially shared in Florida, but work and slogans from local artists, including AAPS students are included as well. Margolis hopes the number of local submissions will increase in future years as word of the exhibit spreads.
Embracing Our Differences SE Michigan Executive Director Nancy Margolis says the exhibit is all about education. “It should be in the schools,” Margolis says. “We want the children to think about things integrated into all of the different programs and schools.”
While the art exhibit is designed to make anyone seeing the banners think, a curriculum has been developed for teachers of all grade levels to use with their students. In the first month the exhibit was open, about 30 AAPS classrooms took field trips to see the art and over the summer more than 1,000 students in a variety of camps visited as well. Margolis is hopeful that more classrooms will tour the work when school resumes later this month..
The exhibit will be on display through the end of September, but Margolis hopes the banners can have a lasting impact in schools. “We would like to give them to every school,” Margolis says. “They can be on the outside of the school, the inside of the school, it can be anywhere, and we are going to have an architect to provide the schools with the easiest and cheapest way of installing or mounting them.”
AAPS Strategic Partnerships and Volunteers Coordinator Nancy Shore is pleased so many community groups have come together for this exhibit and in support of diversity. “It’s so enriching, like this is what makes our community special, when we have these sorts of experiences and we can all do it together.”