Steamboat students tour interactive exhibit at Depot Art Center
October 11, 2011
Steamboat Springs — Just before noon Tuesday, 30 Lowell Whitman Primary School students closed their eyes in unison. When they opened them, the Depot Art Center baggage room became a slum in Uganda, and the students tried to imagine their lives there.
Their excitement about the prospect of going down to the Yampa River to gather water soon waned when they felt with their own arms the weight of the jerrycans that Ugandan children carry for miles each day.
"Most people's travels don't take them through the slums, through the villages where people live," said Henry Howard, a volunteer with local nonprofit organization Come Let's Dance. Howard helped turn the Depot into a Ugandan slum using recycled materials from Home ReSource in Milner. "It's just to wake them up to the reality that there's a whole world of different people out there."
The educational tour was part of a weeklong exhibit hosted by Come Let's Dance called "Enkya," which means "tomorrow" in Lugandan.
The interactive art show combines the photography of Emmy Award-winner Reuben Aaronson, an interactive narrative, social consciousness education and an uplifting message about the resiliency of the human spirit.
Shane Gilbert, executive director of Come Let's Dance, said the exhibit and outreach program is not meant to make anyone feel guilty about being privileged.
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"The worst thing we could do this week is to make people depressed about poverty," Gilbert said. "It's about the encouragement that they can do anything they want to do with what they have, including changing someone's situation on the other side of the world."
And that message was getting through to the Lowell Whiteman students early in their tour Tuesday.
The students were shocked when they learned that while an African family uses two jerrycans of water per day, the average American uses the equivalent of 400 cans. But they were quick to offer solutions.
"We should donate a wheelbarrow to them," one student cried out.
Marjorie Hellyer and her classmate Rhys Morgan, both 10, said they wanted to travel to Africa to help those children living in poverty.
"I would want to go there, just to see what their lifestyle is like," Marjorie said. "It seems like they are happy when they can go to school."
"We could bring them water bottles or food," Rhys said.
Throughout the week, 700 local students will take a tour through the exhibit led by a volunteer telling the stories behind Aaronson's photos: stories of Come Let's Dance efforts to build water wells, teach Ugandans basic hygiene and health and launch a new school.
The exhibit is making its premiere here in Steamboat before it moves on for a national tour. The event officially launches with a Friday VIP fundraising party and book release for "Enkya," the coffee-table book that goes along with the exhibit.
Friday's event starts at 6:30 p.m. and features live vocal jazz from Lianne Pyle and Mark Johnson, drinks, appetizers and more opportunities to get involved with Come Let's Dance. Tickets are $50.
The exhibit also will be open to the public all day Saturday, and one of the volunteers will be giving a guided tour at 6:30 p.m. Saturday evening.
To Gilbert, bringing the world of the Ugandan slums to Steamboat is just a way of giving back to the community where her nonprofit is based. It's also rewarding, she said, to watch the students grasp global issues at such a young age.
"Somehow, in our adult minds, we've grown cynical, we always think of all the obstacles," Gilbert said. "Young people, if we can help show them the way, I think they'll spend the rest of their lives fighting for it."
— To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@SteamboatToday.com