Art students mark Day of Peace with special project
by: Carole Archer, Students at Reynolds High School work on pinwheels that they planted around the Reynolds Arts and Communications building to mark the International Day of Peace on Thursday, Sept. 21.

In most places, Thursday, Sept. 21, the International Day of Peace, passes unnoticed.

But at Reynolds High School, a group of determined art students marked the day the best way they knew how - symbolically.

By mid-afternoon Thursday, the lawn around the Reynolds Arts and Communications building was fluttering with tiny pinwheels.

'Pinwheels are a childhood symbol, they remind us of a time when things were simple,' Reynolds art teacher Bonnie Rulli explained.

Rulli discovered the project through the National Art Educators Association and asked fellow Reynolds art teacher Rod Gjesdal to join in. Together, the two teachers gathered their students and produced more than 300 'pinwheels for peace.'

On one side of the pinwheel the students drew images of peace. On the other side, they wrote words.

Melanie Hamilton, 17, a senior at Reynolds High, is the president of the school's art club. She says the pinwheel project was enlightening for many of her peers.

'I thought it was really cool because a lot of kids don't think about things like this. This made them have to think about an idea like peace,' Hamilton says.

Anita Merlo, 17, agrees.

'We need to get kids to think about bigger things than music,' Merlo says. 'I thought this was a good way to do that.'

Merlo made two pinwheels. On one, she encourages people to think about how they're spending their energy.

'We should put the energy we put into fighting into helping each other,' Merlo says.

According to the National Art Educators Association, the pinwheel project isn't meant to be political.

'Peace doesn't necessarily have to be associated with the conflict of war, it can be related to violence/intolerance in our daily lives, to peace of mind,' the project's founders write on the association's Web site. 'To each of us, peace can take on a different meaning.'

For 18-year-old Johnathan Velasquez, peace comes from the inside.

'People have a stereotype that I'm not a peaceful person, because of the way I look, because of the face I was born with,' Velasquez says, referring to his Mexican heritage. 'They think I probably listen to rap music … but I don't. I listen to 60s music. I love John Lennon. And I'm a very peaceful person.'

In his former southern California hometown, Velasquez was known as V.I.G.S., which stands for Very Important Goal System. When he moved to Oregon last year, Velasquez opened his own art company and called it Independent V.I.G.S. Productions.

Together with another Reynolds senior, Shane Stoevtz, Velasquez used his artistic skills to create a centerpiece to the pinwheels for peace project.

Velasquez' artwork - portraits of John Lennon and Martin Luther King, Jr. - is on display inside the high school's Arts and Communications building, next to a pinwheel for peace.

'I chose John Lennon and M.L.K. because they are international symbols of peace,' Velasquez says. 'John Lennon is one of my personal heroes. His music relaxes me, and he is one of my favorites. And M.L.K., well, he was just such a visionary. His teaching would tell you, if you get slapped, just turn your back.'

On Thursday, Sept. 21, the Reynolds art students' pinwheels for peace joined half a million other pinwheels planted in 1,350 locations all over the world.

'When Bonnie approached me, I thought it was a great idea,' Gjesdal says. 'It's always a great idea for students to express their thoughts on peace.'

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