This year’s Embracing Our Differences was a delightful antidote to the incivility that is rampant in an election year, particularly this election year. While it sometimes feels our country and even our community is tearing itself asunder, this annual month-long international exhibit was a tribute to peace and the power of the human spirit. “A community is not a community without unity,” stated Sammi Fishe, a 12-year-old Sarasota Middle School student, who wrote one of many wise quotes about why we must revel in and celebrate our community’s diversity.
As usual, I had a few favorite artists, but mostly I just loved spending some time outside with a friend sharing the powerful experience of the quotes and images that were selected for exhibition. Among the notable banners was “What’s Not to Like,” an amalgam of adult faces that composed the shape of a young baby. The artist, Jelena Meek, said she creates art to help erase her loneliness. We all have a natural instinct to love and cherish babies, but the artist seemed to be asking why we lose that compassion when dealing with adults. I also really enjoyed the piece “Because” by Jardley Jean-Louis, who stated in her artist video that you have to let go to be loved. In her image, she depicted herself both as the person loving and the person being loved. She said she believes we should love one another “just because.”
There was another compelling piece called “Expecting,” that was a simple image of a giraffe and an
elephant in love who just bore an egg. I knew my daughter would love that one. In “Seen But Not Heard,” a young child extolled the virtues of a world he built with blocks where “everyone is equal and treated with respect” and his father dismisses him as “just a child” as he casually peruses the newspaper. The exhibit gave an opportunity to return to our childlike innocence before we were shaped by some of the darker forces that are a part of our world.
Everyone involved with Embracing Our Differences is to be commended for bringing this important work to Sarasota. Over 1 million people have been to Embracing Our Differences, since it began in 2004.