Embracing Our Differences Announces Winners for 2014 Outdoor Art Exhibit

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February 12, 2014




Su Byron § [email protected] § 941-922-7274




Embracing Our Differences Announces


Winners for 2014 Outdoor Art Exhibit


Thirty-fivearea residents are among the 82 winners whose artwork and inspirational quotes were selected to participate in the 11th-annual outdoor art exhibit celebrating diversity. More than 6,000 entries were submitted by individuals from 52 countries and 44 states. This year’s exhibits will be on display March 30-June 1 in Sarasota’s Island Park and Bradenton’s Riverwalk.




(Sarasota, FL) For 10 years, Embracing Our Differences (EOD) has drawn on the passion and perception of artists, children and others to create powerful statements of inclusion and acceptance in its annual outdoor public art exhibitions consisting of 39 billboard-sized works of art, each accompanied by an inspirational quote. The response to this year’s call for artwork and inspirational quotes was strong, with more than 6,000 entrees pouring in from 52 countries and 44 states. The winning quotes and art will be showcased in the 11th-anniversary exhibits, March 30 to June 1, 2014, in Sarasota’s Island Park and Bradenton’s Riverwalk. For more information about this exhibit or Embracing Our Differences, call 941-404-5710 or visit www.embracingourdifferences.org.


“Our jury committee spent two weeks reviewing thousands of submissions from around the world,” says Michael Shelton, executive director of Embracing Our Differences. “Yet again, we were inspired by the high quality and heartfelt conviction. Each contributor made a decision to be an ‘up-stander’ and not a ‘by-stander.’ The fact that so many people like that are out there continues to give all of us hope.”


According to Shelton, the first criterion in judging the submission is by the underlying concept or idea each represents. “We believe all people should feel safe, be empowered and make a difference,” he says. “That’s our guiding philosophy. We select the quotes and artworks that best reflect that conviction.” Shelton adds that winning artwork is also judged on how effectively its message can be read when enlarged to billboard size. Awards are given for “Best-in-Show Adult,” “Best-in-Show Student,” and “People’s Choice” categories, with the last chosen by visitors to the exhibit. Adult winners each receive $1,000; students receive $1,000 to be directed to their school’s art program.




The Best-in-Show Adult winner for artis Marija Doric of Westfield, Indiana, for her work entitled, “Pressure and Tension.” In addition to the honor, Doric will receive a $1,000 cash award. For the first time in EOD’s history, two artists were selected to receive Best-in-Show Student awards. Nina Edelsbacher, a student at the NewGate School in Sarasota, won for her work, “Everything is Equal.” Nina’s teacher is Roberta Schlesinger. Elise Raimon, astudent at Carlos E. Haile Middle School in Bradenton, won for her work, “wePhones.” Her teacher is Joseph Gibson. Each school will be awarded a $1,000 cash prize to be used in their art programs. A “People’s Choice Award” will be selected by visitors to the Island Park and Riverwalk exhibits and announced in late May. Any visitor who participates in an EOD survey can vote for this award. The winning adult artist will receive a $1,000 cash award; if a student wins, his or her school art department will receive the $1,000 cash award.




Winning quotes in the 2014 exhibition include,“If you judge people by how far they have to go, you’ll never know how far they’ve come” (Aliyah Cunningham, a student at Sarasota Middle School); and “The hardest part of standing up for something is believing you can” (Alexa Capo, Sarasota). The award for Best-in-Show inspirational quote was given to Zachary Lasebry, a student at Louise R Johnson Middle School in Bradenton for his quote: “It shouldn’t take your reading this quote to know that you should accept people for who they are.” Lasebry’s school will receive $1,000 for its art department.


Shelton explains that the statements accompanying each artwork are vital. “Each shows insight into our common humanity—and the differences that make us human,” he says. “We’re always moved by heartfelt thought, creativity, wit and compassion the quotes represent. In the end, we choose the ones that best complement the artwork.”


According to Embracing Our Differences founding co-chairman, Dennis McGillicuddy, “These exhibits connect the dots between artistic experience and the realities of bullying, prejudice and injustice. People, even as young as 12, tell me they feel deeply moved and inspired to be a force for change.” He adds that the combined attendance at all three venues for 2013 clocked in at 278,000 people, including more than 25,000 students from 180 area schools. “Enhancing the resources we provide to area teachers will remain our top priority,” he says.


Embracing Our Differences’ annual outdoor exhibits are the heart of a year-round program of activities designed to use art as a catalyst to create awareness and promote diversity. Aside from the annual outdoor exhibition, Embracing Our Differences’ ongoing educational outreach programs and initiatives include: 


§         Teacher workshops developed by nationally acclaimed educators to provide curricula and lesson plans relating to art appreciation, character building and diversity education. These include:


o       Creative Writing Workshops presented in partnership with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Florida Studio Theatre. These are designed to tackle the abstract topic of diversity by teaching students to express themselves through critical thinking and creative writing. Collectively, the 105 teachers participating in 2013 were responsible for more than 15,000 students from Sarasota and Manatee counties.


o       Art Teacher Retreat: Presented in partnership with Ringling College of Art and Design, this two-day retreat is focused on reinvigorating art educators’ creativity while teaching new skills and strategies for inspiring students to explore the concepts of prejudice and diversity. Participating art teachers were collectively responsible for more than 12,000 Sarasota and Manatee county students.


o       Lesson Plans Workshops: Designed to provide curriculum-aligned lesson plans and other resource materials. Participating teachers discover new and innovative methods of engaging students in critical thinking while creating the perfect environment for a rich discussion on the value of diversity.


§         The “Make-a-Day-of-It!” program, providing free bus transportation for area students and teachers to the outdoor exhibit and to other cultural venues, including Florida Studio Theatre, Mote Marine Aquarium and Ringling Museum. Nearly 23,000 students participated during the 2012-2013 school year.


§         A docent program that, via partnerships with Riverview, Southeast and North Port high schools, provides student-led docent tours of the annual exhibit. Student docent tours were provided to 10,453 K-8 children visiting the 2013 exhibits. There are approximately 150 student docents.


For more information about this exhibit or Embracing Our Differences, please call 941-404-5710 visit www.embracingourdifferences.org. To view the 2013 annual report, visit http://embracingourdifferences.org/pdfs/2013report%20low.pdf.




About Embracing Our Differences

Embracing Our Differences is a project of Coexistence, Inc., a local non-profit that began in 2004. The project showcases a community-based outdoor exhibit promoting positive, inspirational artistic and verbal expressions of inclusion, acceptance and respect. The mission of Embracing Our Differences is to use the arts as a catalyst for creating awareness and promoting, throughout our community, the value of diversity, the benefits of inclusion and the significance of the active rejection of hatred and prejudice.

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