A “Nobel” Cause: Portraits of Peace
by Nora D. Sheets [ WVCBL/PSALM ]
Students from St. Francis de Sales Central Catholic School in Morgantown, West Virginia, U.S., created an art exhibit to recognize International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) advocates and landmine survivors.
Members of Proud Students Against Landmines and Cluster Bombs/West Virginia Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Bombs (PSALM/WVCBL or PSALM for short) met in fall 2012 to discuss how to join the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) and celebrate 20 years of campaigning for a world free of landmines. It seemed fitting that a youth campaign born from an art project would commemorate the event with artwork. Portraits highlighted ICBL campaigners and a timeline of photographs celebrated the 20th anniversary of ICBL winning the Nobel Peace Prize, along with PSALM’s work with the campaign. The exhibit, A “NOBEL” CAUSE: Portraits of Peace, opened at the Monongalia Arts Center in Morgantown, West Virginia, U.S., on 11 January 2013.
PSALM students spent hours painting and preparing large-scale portraits of ICBL campaigners, mentors and role models, as well as landmine survivors who participated in the 2012 Paralympics in London. The subjects of the portraits are people who inspired PSALM students to use their talents and energy to make the world safer for children everywhere. These portraits represent a mere fraction of the many amazing people PSALM had the privilege of working with over the years. In addition to creating the artwork, PSALM students acted as gallery guides for visitors during the event.
ICBL, a global, civil movement, was born in 1992 to put an urgent stop to a humanitarian crisis. ICBL’s efforts were crucial to the development, negotiation, adoption and signing of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on Their Destruction and in the same year ICBL was a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
As a teacher, I can attest to how often the student becomes the teacher and the teacher becomes the student. In 1999 I assigned a project to my eighth-grade art students: Design a piece of artwork that will educate the public about a global social-justice issue. The students chose landmines, and local veteran and ophthalmologist Dr. Larry Schwab encouraged my students to join the effort to rid the world of landmines. In 2000 PSALM students met with Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Jody Williams; Landmine Survivors Network co-founders Ken Rutherford and Jerry White; and Cambodian Campaign to Ban Landmines members including Nobel Peace Prize co-recipient Tun Channareth, ICBL Youth Ambassador Song Kosal and Sister Denise Coghlan. All went out of their way to educate the students about the issue. The students were dedicated to the mission. PSALM co-founder Ryan Lynch stated, “I learned a lot from working with the campaigns, lobbying lawmakers, raising awareness and meeting with other inspiring advocates, but most of all it empowers and inspires students to create change in a real way. I learned that social-justice advocacy is a powerful tool that can be utilized by anyone with hope.”
Fourteen years later, PSALM is still committed to educating the public about the devastation caused by landmines and cluster munitions, and their indiscriminate nature that leads to loss of life, especially children’s lives, after wartime hostilities have ceased. Students and members work to raise awareness about survivor issues, prevent future casualties through service projects and contribute to the universal signature of the conventions banning landmines and cluster munitions. The service projects that PSALM students completed include collecting medical supplies for landmine victims in Nicaragua, providing a prosthetic device to a Bosnian landmine victim, raising funds in order to train mine detection dogs, as well as sponsoring three water wells in mine-affected regions of Cambodia. “We want a world where all children can walk to school, gather food or water, and play without the fear that each step may be their last,” said a PSALM student during the exhibit.
Nora D. Sheets has worked as an art teacher at St. Francis de Sales Central Catholic School in Morgantown, West Virginia, U.S., for 26 years. She is the coordinator for the student organization Proud Students Against Landmines and Cluster Bombs/West Virginia Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Bombs (PSALM/WVCBL) Sheets has represented PSALM/WVCBL at International Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Munition Coalition conferences in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Colombia, Croatia, Jordan, Kenya, Laos and Norway.
Nora D. Sheets
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Morgantown, WV 26508 / USA
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