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MTSU students help local, world artists promote pe...

MTSU students help local, world artists promote peace on UN’s day for people with disabilities [+VIDEO]

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MTSU speech and dance students helped to mark the United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities Dec. 3 by bringing together artists from around the world to celebrate and encourage peace.

Department of Communication Studies logoTheir projects, which showcase both visual arts and dance, also are intended to honor the late arts education activist Jean Kennedy Smith, founder of VSA, an international organization on arts and disabilities, and her work toward peace accords as U.S. ambassador to Ireland in the 1990s.

Students in Department of Communication Studies professor Lori Kissinger‘s Fundamentals of Communication courses collected works of art from creators in Florida, Kentucky, Indiana, North and South Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, Egypt, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and United Arab Emirates to become “Pieces of Peace,” a digital postcard.

This "Pieces of Peace" digital postcard, designed by MTSU senior media arts major Samantha Kaviyakone for the arts and advocacy program Borderless Arts Tennessee, is a compilation of images created by artists around the world for the 2020 United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities. (image courtesy of Borderless Arts Tennessee)

This “Pieces of Peace” digital postcard, designed by MTSU senior media arts major Samantha Kaviyakone for the arts and advocacy program Borderless Arts Tennessee, is a compilation of images created by artists around the world for the 2020 United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Click on the image to see a larger version.

The special dance performance, “Peace,” made its inaugural appearance at http://borderlessartstn.org, the website for Borderless Arts Tennessee, on Dec. 3. Borderless Arts is a statewide organization supporting arts programs for people with disabilities that was established at MTSU in 2001.

One of six groups of dancers from MTSU, Borderless Arts Tennessee and Art Spark Texas perform an excerpt from "Peace," their tribute to the United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities and the late arts education activist Jean Kennedy Smith. The collaboration, which was entirely virtual thanks to a grant from the Tennessee Arts Commission, allowed guest artist Silva Laukkanen to work with all the dancers.

One of six groups of dancers from MTSU, Borderless Arts Tennessee and Art Spark Texas perform an excerpt from “Peace,” their tribute to the United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities and the late arts education activist Jean Kennedy Smith. The collaboration, which was entirely virtual thanks to a grant from the Tennessee Arts Commission, allowed guest artist Silva Laukkanen to work with all the dancers. Click on the image to watch the dance video.

Kissinger, who also serves as Borderless Arts’ executive director, said these new efforts refer back to a 2015 international arts project honoring Smith and VSA on the organization’s 40th anniversary.

Professor Lori Kissinger, Department of Communication Studies, College of Liberal Arts

Professor Lori Kissinger

It included a digital “scrapbook” of world arts experiences and a massive quilt, compiled of participants’ squares and assembled at MTSU, presented to Smith at the U.S. Capitol.

The “Pieces of Peace” postcard, designed by MTSU media arts alumna Samantha Kaviyakone, incorporates 28 artists’ images and a “teapot” theme often used by Borderless Arts and its associated groups as a “message to the world,” the professor said.

It is featured at http://borderlessartstn.org, and it’s set to be included at the UN’s website for the day, www.un.org/en/observances/day-of-persons-with-disabilities.

Samantha Kaviyakone, MTSU media arts alumna

Samantha Kaviyakone

Each artist’s work represents their view of peace. Each student also spoke with an artist and made a presentation on the artwork — all done remotely for Kissinger’s virtual classroom — to add experiential learning, via their collaboration and problem-solving work, to their courses’ public speaking requirements. Each could also submit artwork for the project.

Two of Kissinger’s speech students, freshman biochemistry major Verina Rezk of Smyrna, Tennessee, and junior homeland security major Tyler Walker of Manchester, Tennessee, created two of the 28 works of art. Nashville artist, musician and event planner Morgan Vice created another representing Borderless Arts.

“A lot of thought went into the design for this piece,” Kissinger said of the digital postcard. “Every element and detail — including the incorporation of the teapot, as well as the overall message — all have special meaning.”

official logo for the United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities, observed this year on Thursday, Dec. 3.The teapot in the postcard’s center includes artwork from each of the 12 partner organizations, “representing how their efforts mix together to pour out a unified message,” she continued, explaining that the teapot imagery originated in 2015 with Charlie Kellett of the U.S. State Department.

“During his work in the Peace Corps, he witnessed the serving of tea as a way to bring people together. Whenever he saw people using their talents for a common good, he called it ‘Teapot Diplomacy,’” Kissinger said.

“He had dubbed our 2015 quilt as ‘Teapot Diplomacy’ and later gave permission to Borderless Arts Tennessee to name a program ‘Teapot Diplomats.’”

MTSU Theatre and Dance logoAlong with Borderless Arts, this year’s participating organizations include Alfan Alkas Association Egypt, Fann4All-Saudi Arabia, VSA Singapore, Kuwait, Art for All Center United Arab Emirates, arts4all Florida, Arts For All Kentucky, ArtMix Indiana, Arts Access North Carolina, ARTS ACCESS South Carolina, and Art Spark Texas.

Jennifer James, MTSU senior dance major and artistic director for Borderless Arts Tennessee

Jennifer James

The Borderless Arts “Peace” dance also was featured in the MTSU Dance Theatre’s Fall Dance Concert, which was presented online Nov. 21. It’s available to watch here.

A grant from the Tennessee Arts Commission allowed MTSU dancers to work remotely with guest artist Silva Laukkanen, Borderless Arts and Art Spark Texas this fall to create their dance performance.

MTSU senior dance major Jennifer James of Murfreesboro, who also serves as Borderless Arts’ artistic director, guided the university and Borderless Arts groups.

Laukkanen, who is director of integrated dance for the Austin-based Art Spark Texas, called her experience with the MTSU and Borderless Arts teams “wonderful” and a “strange juxtaposition” of new opportunities to collaborate, create and dance together with dancers of all abilities.

Borderless Arts Tennessee logo web“On the plus side, I’m getting more used to this virtual platform, and I recognize the accessibility and what it has done to break isolation for people with disabilities,” Laukkanen wrote in a blog post on Art Spark Texas’ website.

“There will be a virtual component in our work from this point on, but I’m also looking forward to being in-person in the dance and creative spaces with people.”

For more information about Borderless Arts Tennessee, visit https://borderlessartstn.org. To learn more about the programs in the Department of Communication Studies in MTSU’s College of Liberal Arts, visit www.mtsu.edu/communication.

And for more information about Tennessee’s only full dance degree program, part of the university’s Department of Theatre and Dance in the College of Liberal Arts, visit www.mtsu.edu/dance.

— Gina E. Fann (gina.fann@mtsu.edu)

Newly inducted Senior Company members of Borderless Arts Tennessee's new Borderless Dance Community celebrate with the organization's artistic director, MTSU senior dance major Jennifer James, third from right, after a September ceremony at Memorial Park in Hendersonville, Tenn. Almost all the senior members are part of "Peace," a dance tribute to the late arts education activist Jean Kennedy Smith and the United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities on Dec. 3. Shown from left are Borderless Arts member and artist Rodrigo Gallegos; member and artist Adam "A.J." Boyd, a founding member of Borderless Arts' first dance program; member and artist Erica McMurray, vice president of the Ambassadors of Borderless Arts organization at MTSU; James; member and artist Torie Summers, a founding member of Borderless Arts' Teapot Diplomat Visual Arts program; and a happy young member of the Borderless Dance Community's junior company. Also inducted but not pictured were senior dance company members Meghan Maynard, Maggie Perry and Sarah Rachman. (photo courtesy of Borderless Arts Tennessee)

Newly inducted Senior Company members of Borderless Arts Tennessee’s new Borderless Dance Community celebrate with the organization’s artistic director, MTSU senior dance major Jennifer James, third from right, after a September ceremony at Memorial Park in Hendersonville, Tenn. Almost all the senior members are part of “Peace,” a dance tribute to the late arts education activist Jean Kennedy Smith and the United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities on Dec. 3. Shown from left are Borderless Arts member and artist Rodrigo Gallegos; member and artist Adam “A.J.” Boyd, a founding member of Borderless Arts’ first dance program; member and artist Erica McMurray, vice president of the Ambassadors of Borderless Arts organization at MTSU; James; member and artist Torie Summers, a founding member of Borderless Arts’ Teapot Diplomat Visual Arts program; and a happy young member of the Borderless Dance Community’s junior company. Also inducted but not pictured were senior dance company members Meghan Maynard, Maggie Perry and Sarah Rachman. (photo courtesy of Borderless Arts Tennessee)

This drawing by MTSU freshman biochemistry major Verina Rezk of Smyrna, Tennessee, is included in "Pieces of Peace," a compilation of images into a digital postcard for the 2020 United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities. (Image courtesy of Verina Rezk)

This drawing by MTSU freshman biochemistry major Verina Rezk of Smyrna, Tennessee, is included in “Pieces of Peace,” a compilation of images into a digital postcard for the 2020 United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities. (Image courtesy of Verina Rezk)

This drawing by MTSU junior homeland security major Tyler Walker of Manchester, Tennessee, is included in "Pieces of Peace," a compilation of images into a digital postcard for the 2020 United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities. (Image courtesy of Tyler Walker)

This drawing by MTSU junior homeland security major Tyler Walker of Manchester, Tennessee, is included in “Pieces of Peace,” a compilation of images into a digital postcard for the 2020 United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities. (Image courtesy of Tyler Walker)

This multimedia artwork by Nashville artist, musician and event planner Morgan Vice is the Borderless Arts Tennessee representative artwork is included in "Pieces of Peace," a compilation of images into a digital postcard for the 2020 United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities. (Image courtesy of Morgan Vice)

This multimedia artwork by Nashville artist, musician and event planner Morgan Vice is the Borderless Arts Tennessee representative artwork is included in “Pieces of Peace,” a compilation of images into a digital postcard for the 2020 United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities. (Image courtesy of Morgan Vice)


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