By EMMA BARTLETT
Seventh and eighth grade students in Mary Greim-Gallo’s art classes are showing their support for Ukrainian refugees through art. The project – which is two …
By EMMA BARTLETT
Seventh and eighth grade students in Mary Greim-Gallo’s art classes are showing their support for Ukrainian refugees through art. The project – which is two weeks underway – started with an idea from a fellow Western Hills teacher’s brother who volunteered at a refugee center in Poland.
Greim-Gallo said the school’s gym teacher, Karen Humes, reached out with an art project idea from her brother, Trevor Dane. Dane, who is a native Rhode Islander, recently spent two weeks volunteering for the World Central Kitchen in Przemysl, Poland; he found himself at a large shopping center that was converted into a humanitarian center where Ukrainian refugees temporarily stayed after crossing the Medyka border.
At the center, he noticed a lot of handmade drawings on the walls which children made as part of the counseling service they received. He said many of the drawings had other country’s flags (such as France, Germany, Israel, UK) and had a written message of support – a visible, tangible sign of solidarity with the Ukrainian children. He said there was only one drawing with a reference to America or an American flag.
Dane asked his sister if the school would like to create artwork to send to Poland as a way to show support. Humes approached Greim-Gallo with the idea and she immediately got to work. She chose three classes and they created drawings, painted fake wooden kindness rocks and a banner which will all be sent to Poland.
“We talked about what was going on and about how people leave with nothing and are coming into a space where they are fed and clothed but have left everything,” said Greim-Gallo.
The drawings, rocks and banner are meant to be a source of encouragement. She said students were thoughtful about what they chose to draw and one wrote a letter.
Greim-Gallo said the benefit of this project is that you’ve given someone hope – even if it’s getting just one child to smile and know that someone is thinking of them.
“It [artwork] gives a sense of hope and a reminder that things get better and will be okay,” said eighth-grader Kiana Angeles, 13.
Over the past two weeks, Greim-Gallo’s students created 50 drawings for the center and 30 kindness rocks. Greim-Gallo gave students complete freedom of what to draw – with many students choosing to draw the Ukrainian and American flags or individuals standing together in unity. For the kindness rocks, students used paints and markers to write positive statements on them; the thought is that refugees will be able to take a rock with them.
Additionally, Greim-Gallo received a banner from a recent Kindness Rock Program grant which students colored and will be sent to Poland.
Greim-Gallo plans to wrap up the initiative in the next week or two and ship the artwork to Dane who lives in Bentonville, Arkansas. Dane will compile the artwork into a book and hand it off to someone who will be leaving to volunteer at the center in Poland. Greim-Gallo said if the process works out, this will be a continual project for students.
This is Greim-Gallo’s first year at Western Hills Middle School. Prior to this position, she spent 24 years working at the elementary level. She is also a native Cranstonian – growing up in Cranston’s Garden Hills area, attending Western Hills herself and now living by Garden City.
Dane is also asking Providence Country Day (his alma mater) to participate in this endeavor as well as the school that his daughter attends in Arkansas.
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