A lot can change in three years. Since the first P.E.A.C.E. Project exhibit hosted by the Depot Art Center, Routt County students have digested the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001; they have seen a war begin and continue without an end in sight.
For many, the events of the past three years have led to a political awakening. The first P.E.A.C.E. Project, an annual art exhibit that gives middle school and high school students a forum to comment on social issues, took place right after the Sept. 11 attacks.
"But no one really commented on it," exhibit organizer Chula Walker-Griffith said. "I think there is more of a consciousness about the problems in the world."
For this year's exhibit, students were asked to explore a social issue of their choice using the form of the mandala -- a concentric diagram used by Buddhist and Hindus as a graphic symbol of the universe. Within the mandala, students were to answer two questions: "What are the roots of this issue?" and "Where is it going?"
The title of the show is, "Roots and Rings."
Pieces ranged from "Fencing Agapi" about the death of Mathew Shepard to a piece about "Revolutionary Music."
One hundred students from sixth through twelfth grade participated in this year's P.E.A.C.E. Project from Soroco High School, Steamboat Springs Middle School and Steamboat Springs High School.
Teachers gave their students time in class and credit for participating in the exhibit.
Walker-Griffith involved her students at Soroco High School, where she student teaches.
"One of my students was passionate about the BLM swap and how it would affect ranchers," she said. "She educated herself about that issue and made a piece called 'Ranching in Routt County.'"
Walker-Griffith co-organized the exhibit with Sally Hertzog, the mother of Nathan Hertzog who was killed in a car accident in 1999. Nathan Hertzog was Walker-Griffith's best friend.
"His biggest passions were art and social activism, and the P.E.A.C.E. Project is done in his memory," Walker-Griffith said. "I think it leaves a lasting impression on the kids who do it."
Last year, the theme was "People of Peace." Students made pieces about figures such as Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
"Now they know about those people," she said. "That is our main goal -- education, especially through art."
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