Embracing Our Differences recently launched “The Oneness of Art,” a powerful yearlong initiative created by poet and teaching artist Cedric Hameed to unite the community through the power of creative expression.
The project’s initial phase, which began in September, will engage community members in interactive poetry workshops. Local visual artists and performers will then take inspiration from the words of workshop participants to create original art across a wide range of mediums, including visual, music and dance. The initiative will culminate in a community-wide celebration.
“We want to start a conversation,” Hameed said. “The hardest conversation is the one you don’t have. Once people start talking and communicating, that changes. People find their unique voice – and then they find their power.”
EOD executive director Sarah Wertheimer said the project creates in-depth community engagement through the power of artistic expression.
“EOD’s commitment to using art as a catalyst to create awareness and promote diversity has grown beyond our annual outdoor exhibit at Sarasota’s Bayfront Park,” Wertheimer said. “Over the past seven years, we’ve sought new, out-of-the-box ways to unite and engage the community. When Cedric approached us with this concept, we were immediately drawn to it and knew it was a great fit for our organization and our mission.”
Wertheimer said the project has three phases. For the next four months, Hameed is holding 16 workshops reaching out to a broad section of the community. Participants have been selected from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Manatee County, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto counties, Easterseals Southwest Florida Academy, and Second Heart Homes.
During each workshop session, Hameed guides participants in the creation of poetry revolving around themes of self-image, self-esteem, fear and triumph. In the project’s second phase, which starts in January, Hameed will share these poems with commissioned artists and performers from Ringling College of Art and Design and others across the region. During this period, artists will take inspiration from the poetry to create original visual art and performance pieces. At the project’s conclusion, their work will be displayed and performed at various area locations, including museums, public spaces, and partner organization facilities.
“Historically, art has always been a powerful, unifying force in the places people live,” Wertheimer said. “Communities traditionally come together around the stories they tell, and songs and celebrations in the public square. The Oneness of Art initiative will reinvent that tradition in our 21st-century community.”
Filmmaker Nate Ilardi will document the Oneness of Art initiative from beginning to end. Sponsors include the joint COVID-19 Response Initiative of Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation and Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Education Foundation of Sarasota County, Manatee Community Foundation, United Way Suncoast, MagnifyGood, Bookstore1Sarasota, an anonymous family foundation, and many Embracing Our Differences supporters.
“The Oneness of Art has only just begun,” Wertheimer said. “There’ll be many more opportunities for supporters across the community to contribute to this amazing initiative in the future.”
Embracing Our Differences is a not-for-profit organization that uses the power of art and education to celebrate and promote the diversity of the human family.
Submitted by Su Byron