Students give vision to human rights

Community members browsed artwork by local students Monday evening at the Pend Oreille Arts Council Gallery in Sandpoint. The artwork gave voice to human rights using articles from the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights Document. (Photo by MARY MALONE)

Students give vision to human rights 1

 Allison Kinard, a senior at Sandpoint High School, stands next to her painting of a woman of color dancing. The painting is on display at the Student Art for Human Rights show at the Pend Oreille Arts Council gallery in Sandpoint. (Photo by MARY MALONE)

Local students gave voice to a powerful vision of human rights through artwork, which is currently displayed in the Pend Oreille Arts Council gallery.

The works were done in many different mediums, but the message was the same — that all humans should be treated equal and given the rights outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights document.

Allison Kinard, a junior at Sandpoint High School, used watercolor and a hint of Sharpie detail to depict a woman of color dancing with an array of colors streaming around her. During the opening reception for the Student Art for Human Rights event Monday evening, Kinard said the message is to show that the word “colored” is not a negative term.

“It’s something beautiful, it’s a cultural identity and there is so many beautiful things about it,” Kinard said.

For 12 years, the Bonner County Human Rights Task Force and Pend Oreille Arts Council have partnered in the student art event to bring the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to the attention of students in the area.

Formulated by Eleanor Roosevelt as she was the chair of the United Nations Human Rights Commission at the time, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted and proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations on Dec. 10, 1948. The document consists of 30 articles meant to guarantee the rights of all people.

“It is an important thing to be aware of,” said Brenda Hammond, BCHRTF secretary, as she flipped through the small booklet containing the articles. “Like Article 25. ‘Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family.’ The fact that that is considered a human right is really significant.”

Art students at Sandpoint High School, Forrest M. Bird Charter School and Sandpoint Middle School were instructed to choose an article and represent it artistically. Therefore, the representations were of equality, the right to marriage and family, the right to own property and the right to education. Many of the other articles were represented as well.

“It’s amazing to see what they drew,” Hammond said. “As someone who has worked in human rights for a number of years, every year I am re-inspired and re-committed and encouraged by seeing what the young people are able to do and the depth of engagement with these ideas.”

Sandpoint High School art instructors Ezra Stafford and Heather Guthrie attended the event to see their students’ artwork displayed in the gallery. Stafford said while it was a spur of the moment assignment for his students, they were able to use what they have learned throughout the semester and integrate it into their own personal style using the article as an influence for the work.

Guthrie said the students seem to have a “really amazing grasp at this age” of politics and a global society. She said it may be because of social media, but they seem more “in tune” with what is happening in the world than kids were when she was their age.

“And I guess with this (presidential) election being such a high profile one, too, they understand what human rights are, what they mean,” Guthrie said. “They did a really good job with the show.”

Seventh- and eighth-grade art teacher for Sandpoint Middle School, Linda Navarre, also attended the reception. Navarre said her favorite part of the project is seeing the kids choose the Article they intend to artistically create. Navarre said she does “a little front-loading” on Eleanor Roosevelt and how the articles came to be, and let’s the kids do the rest.

Local artist Whitney Palmer graduated from SHS in 2002, and growing up in the district had Navarre as a teacher in middle school. As Palmer conversed with Navarre at the event, she recalled the teacher’s attention to human rights dating back to when she took her class.

“She was amazing about informing us as students, in seventh-grade, about human rights issues,” Palmer said. “… It’s great to have that influence at a younger age and that awareness. It really influenced me and I became more involved in human rights issues.”


A quote on one of the paintings included in this year’s show at the POAC Gallery reads:

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes.  Art is knowing which ones to keep.”

I found the show to be provocative in many ways. What I appreciated more than anything was the raw energy and lack of inhibition, a freedom from the fear of making a mistake. Maybe some of the artists were more able to know which mistakes to keep than others, but I didn’t feel that was as important as the simple act of expressing themselves , putting the process before the results.

This made it difficult for me to come away with a sense of which pieces I liked “best,” even though there were some stellar standouts, especially among the portraits in the back room.  Yet, who wouldn’t love the cute elephant and puppy showing in the front room, the colorful,, large-scale selfies, the mosaics and ceramics?

Again, the show’s overwhelming feeling of innocent freshness is what I came away with most.  As I walked up Cedar Street later that night, I saw another rather fitting quote on a sign in a shop window:

“It is not our abilities that show who we truly are… it is our choices.”