Each year, Borderless Arts TN celebrates International Day of Persons with Disabilities with a small festival. This year, we had to do things a bit differently. We decided to create a piece of art with some of our stateside and international partners. Below is the story of that piece of art. We are also highlighting a dance that was done between the Borderless Dance Community and MTSU dance. There is also a song by our 2nd place 2020 Young Soloist winner, Maggie Perry. All of the theme focus on Peace.
In 2015, 75 organizations (36 stateside and 39 overseas) joined together to honor Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith and the 40th anniversary of the organization that she created, VSA (Very Special Arts). Ambassador Smith was a sister of President John F. Kennedy and formed VSA to support arts programs for people with disabilities.
Over a 40-day time period, 40 unique international arts and education experiences were digitally exchanged and shared through a website hosted by Borderless Arts Tennessee (BATN, formerly known VSA TN). However, the most significant accomplishment of this project was the creation of a quilt comprised of squares made by participants from each of the organizations. The quilt was assembled at Middle Tennessee State University as a BATN project under the artistic direction of Lauren Rudd. The quilt was later presented to Ambassador Smith at the U.S. Capitol and accepted into the U.S. State Department’s Art in Embassies Program.
2020 marks the 5th anniversary of this unique global celebration. Sadly, on June 17, 2020, Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith passed away at 92 years of age.
Twelve of the remaining organizations that participated in the 2015 celebration decided to partner once again to pay tribute to Ambassador Smith. The art is being revealed on December 3rd in celebration of the United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
“A lot of thought went into the design for this piece, “says Borderless Arts TN Executive Director Lori Kissinger. “Every element and detail—including the incorporation of the teapot, as well as the overall message—all have special meaning.”
The art is designed in the shape of a postcard as it is being sent as a message to the world. The 28 images around the edges celebrate the 28th year of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The message of peace is a tribute to Ambassador Smith’s peace negotiation work in Ireland in the 1990’s. In fact, each of the images is an artist’s representation of peace. The teapot holds an image from each of the 12 partner organizations, representing how their efforts mix together to pour out a unified message. The teapot image developed in 2015 from a term coined by Charlie Kellett of the US State Department. During his work in the Peace Corp., he witnessed the serving of tea as a way to bring people together. Whenever he saw people using their talents for a common good, he called it Teapot Diplomacy. He had dubbed the 2015 quilt as Teapot Diplomacy and later gave permission to Borderless Arts TN to name a program Teapot Diplomats. Samantha Kaviyakone, a recent Middle Tennessee State University graduate, designed the art which continues the connection with the university.
Partners in the project include: Alfan Alkas Association Egypt, Art for All Center United Arab Emirates, ArtMix Indiana, Arts Access North Carolina, ARTS ACCESS South Carolina, Arts For All Kentucky, arts4all Florida, Art Spark Texas, Borderless Arts Tennessee, Fann4All-Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, VSA Singapore.
About the Artist: Samantha Kaviyakone
Samantha is a 22 year old artist who was born in Tennessee to immigrant parents. Her cultural heritage is Laotian and Vietnamese. She graduated from Smyrna High School in 2016. After high school, she went on to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in Video/Film Production and a minor in Animation & Media Management from Middle Tennessee State University. She graduated from MTSU in May 2020.
Selected Artists (Art is in the Teapot)
Alfan Alkas Association Egypt / Artist: Kareem Ahmed Mostafa
Kareem is a 32 year old artist with Down syndrome and hearing loss. He is a member of Awladna Foundation where he is a painter, photographer, does art moor work and embroidery. He is an employee of the National Library and Archives. He expressed peace in the form of a dove and an olive branch through embroidery.
Art for All Center United Arab Emirates / Artist: Moza bin Abdullah bin Zyban
Moza bin Abdullah bin Zyban drew the piece of art with his foot due to brain paralysis. Painted in acrylic colors, a child spreads out her arms. In the background, the sky and clouds are dazzling in blue and white colors. Their colors have intertwined to impress as one entity.
ArtMix Indiana / Artist: Terrence
Terrance has been involved in ArtMix programs since 2001. He joined our program as a shy and soft spoken young man who spoke rarely but always thought deeply and had plenty to say – if people were willing to use some patience. Terrance excelled in music composition, lyric writing, ceramics, drawing and painting. After he graduated from high school, he joined our Urban Artisans program which seeks to use the arts as a way to teach vocational skills to young adults. Through this work, Terrance blossomed into a more confident, skilled young citizen of Indianapolis. His craftsmanship in our ceramics studio was top notch and he could always be relied upon to give his best effort. If he could answer what he was most proud of about his experiences at ArtMix, he would probably say working with our Teaching Artist, Doug Babb, in his music studio program where he learned to create beats, put lyrics with the beats and produce completed songs. That program was pure magic. Terrance has moved out of our area and is independently employed, but still keeps in touch. His contribution to ArtMix and Urban Artisans is still highly valued and incalculable.
Arts Access North Carolina / Artist: Wiley Johnson
Wiley Johnson is a 35-year-old self-taught artist from Raleigh, NC who has Autism Spectrum Disorder, ASD. Inspiration for his paintings have come from life around him, walks in many parks, and various museums. Painting has been a peaceful, happy experience and a therapeutic way for him to spend his time alone, particularly after his only sibling, a brother, was killed in a motorcycle accident in 2011. Arts Access here in Raleigh, NC recently bought one of Wiley’s paintings, Find a Way. Wiley is honored that he will be listed as the featured artist for the Fall ASK campaign, 2020 and that the image of his painting will be used in the campaign. Thank you, Arts Access! Wiley is a member of Artspace, Imurj, and Visual Art Exchange in Raleigh, NC. He is listed in the Artist Link project sponsored by Arts Access. This is a directory of NC artists who self-identify as having a disability.
ARTS ACCESS South Carolina / Artist: Carter Boucher
Carter is a Master Teaching Artist for Arts Access South Carolina. He is an author, visual artist and musician. He has created art and illustrations for NASA, Panasonic, U.S. Army Corps. Of Engineers, War Veterans Home (Percent for the Arts), Anderson, S.C., C & S Bank, Dictaphone, Federal Landbank, NCR, Southern Bank Corp., Westinghouse, American Artist Magazine (Watercolor ’88) Marion County Museum and numerous Private Collections.
Arts For All Kentucky / Artist: Michael Dixon
Michael Dixon was born June 22, 1962 in Los Angeles, California. Dixon’s works are typically pencil portraits of significant African American historical figures, African American entertainers, and various family and friends that are important to him. Dixon uses pastels in some works to add more emotion or strength to a portrait. Dixon remembers Wes Hall, his Art teacher at Compton Senior High School, encouraging him to keep drawing, and Michael’s first portrait was of Kareem Abdul Jabar. Dixon draws prolifically, adding to his growing body of work. He can often be found at the library, searching for new subjects that speak to him. Michael was awarded the VSA Kentucky Ron Billings Emerging Artist Award for Artists with disabilities in 2015. In his own words, Dixon shares: “. . . I like to show happiness in the smiles of the people I draw. Worries and disappointment can also be expressed. One of my goals is to exhibit and sell my artwork. I would like to see my art hanging in schools, offices, and galleries.”
arts4all Florida / Artist: Jack Beverland
Jack Beverland, better known as Mr. B. Mr. B has been involved with us, and formerly VSA Florida for many, many years. He is a self-taught folk artist who has both sold and received awards for several pieces over the years. He also gives generously of his time as a collaborative artist in teaching students in schools and in community projects. Peace Park depicts his vision for a future where all can come together in celebrating life and the diversity we each bring.
Art Spark Texas / Features Body Shift led by Silva Laukkanen
Silva Laukkanen, Director of Integrated Dance, states: In 2009 I attended the first Body Shift intensive and fell in love with this community of dancers. My journey in the mixed ability dance world began while I was studying for my BFA and I had the opportunity to teach at a rehabilitation center in my native Finland. After that experience I decided to refocus my career in dance to work with people whose lives have taken different paths than mine, and whose bodies and minds live their everyday lives differently than I do. My deepest passion and dedication for the field is in high quality dance education that’s inclusive and which ignites a passion for a lifelong involvement in dance art.
Borderless Arts Tennessee / Artist: Morgan Vice
Artist – Songwriter – Event Planner Morgan Vice is a young woman on the autism spectrum. She was diagnosed at age three. When she was young, she had very little functional language. Over the years, she has developed a unique unfiltered way of stating what’s on her mind. She also enjoys painting and writing songs with her mom about her favorite things. She is always looking forward to the next big thing, and enjoys adding upcoming events to her calendar.
Fann4All Saudi Arabia / Artist: Child Participant
Fann4All is a voluntary non-profit organization that is hosted by and operates its activities from the Help Center in Jeddah. The art selected for Pieces of Peace was created by a child participant in the program.
Kuwait / Artist: Anfal Bo Hamad
Anfal Bo Hamad is a 23 year old artist with Down syndrome who enjoys working in all types of art. Her art has been shown in many competitions in Kuwait and other Arabian Countries. She has won several award. In addition, she is fluent in English and Arabic and can speak some Indian.
VSA Singapore / Artist: Isaac Tan Yifeng
Isaac has a peace-loving fun and positive personality. He is willing to learn and try new things . Besides art, he shows interest in activities such as computer games, basketball and he loves listening to music. The progress he makes might be slow and the strides he takes might be small but everyday he is clearing every hurdle along his way. This drawing represents peace because the butterfly does not disturb people. When I look at the butterfly and the flower, it is peaceful and a happy feeling.