Webster Grad Student Creates Cross-Cultural Art Project

| May 20, 2014
Image from the Global Art Project book that each of the students received.

Image from the Global Art Project book that each of the students received.

Webster University graduate student Abby Birhanu created The Global Art Project using an alumni grant from the Fulbright Teachers Exchange Program.  Under her leadership and coordination, 66 students between the ages of 12 and 18 from four different countries created a cross-cultural art project.

Birhanu began pursuing her master’s degree in Applied Educational Psychology in Webster’s School of Education to help her become a better teacher. “I wanted to learn more about how the human brain learns best,” said Birhanu. “I wanted to better understand diverse learning and teaching styles to better accommodate a diverse group of students.”

Reaching a diverse group of students is a challenge she faces head-on at St. Charles High School in Missouri where she works as an art teacher. Birhanu wanted to find a way to teach her own students about art while also raising their awareness of how people live all over the world. “I’ve traveled quite a bit so I understand that people are likely to relate to one another when given the opportunity,” she said. “We can always vicariously learn and grow from each others experiences. I wanted to give students an avenue by which to travel indirectly and experience the human spirit.”

 Ethiopian students working with Abby Birhanu to create their part of the Global Art Project.

Ethiopian students working with Webster University graduate student Abby Birhanu to create their part of the Global Art Project.

Through the Global Art Project, students from St. Charles High School worked with students from The Christian Activity Center in East St. Louis, Illinois; Schiller-Gymnasium in Ludwigsburg, Germany; charters in Sunningdale, United Kingdom and Kombolcha Primary School in Kombolcha, Ethiopia. They each contributed to artwork focusing on ten topics: love, relationships, religion, community, education, nationality, holidays, storytelling, music and traditions.

The Global Art Project was displayed in St. Louis last year and also was shared in all of the participating communities through a traveling art show. Each participating student received a booklet of the art to keep. Birhanu hopes to expand the project to countries in Asia and South America and then develop a public art project for the students. “I hope all who come across this project will engage in the dialogue presented by the artists and seek opportunities to continue the conversation,” said Birhanu.

Read more about The Global Art Project and Birhanu at webster.edu.

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