Talawanda Middle School Art Club Displays Peace Pole Project

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Peace poles produced by the Talawanda Middle School Art Club on display at the Oxford Community Arts Center. Photo by Caroline Roethlisberger

By Caroline Roethlisberger

During the monthly Second Friday event, the Talawanda Middle School Art Club displayed its Peace Pole Project at the inaugural OX-WOW Fest at the Oxford Community Arts Center.

The Peace Pole project is part of an international movement that aims to spread a message of peace throughout the world. The goal is to plant the poles in gardens, yards or other areas in the community to promote peace. Students decorate each pole with the phrase “May peace prevail on Earth” in different languages to represent a global perspective.

“The Peace Pole Project is relevant to this time in our culture,” said Caroline Croswell, Executive Director at the Oxford Community Arts Center. “It was an opportunity for the kids to be thoughtful and research different cultures.”

By the end of the OX-WOW event, five finished Peace Poles were sold along with three unfinished poles. Each one was sold for $50, but extra donations were welcomed. Though the club initially received a $2000 grant from the Oxford Community Foundation to get the project started, Croswell said that “the sales go back into the budget for the art club to help sustain it.”

“Customers who purchased unfinished poles have the opportunity to complete the poles themselves,” said Rosalyn Benson, the OCAC Programming Chair, who managed the Peace Pole exhibit during the event.

Joe Prescher, a local freelance artist and board member of the Public Arts Commission of Oxford, began the club in October 2018 in collaboration with OCAC and Gary Robertson, the Talawanda Middle School art teacher. They lead about 15 students ranging from sixth to eighth grade.

Prescher said he wants to give students “exposure to art, not just as a thing, but as a way of expression.”

“The arts go hand-in-hand with the ability to be creative as well as math and science; it helps kids learn,” said Croswell.

Studies suggest that art education leads to higher verbal and math standardized test scores, as well as improved critical reasoning and abstract and inferential thinking ability.

The club fills a need for art education in Oxford. At Talawanda Middle School, there is only one art teacher for 700 middle-schoolers. With limited opportunities for students to participate in art, the club “provides an ongoing access point for kids to do more art,” said Prescher.

Prescher structures the club like a regular class, giving a presentation followed by an opportunity for students to explore materials relating to the presented topic. “We want to emphasize the idea of fun because it’s a club,” said Prescher.

On the other hand, there are two five-week sessions scheduled for the spring, and one of the projects will explore botanical illustration through watercolors and other mediums.

The club will also collaborate with Miami University’s ECO Team (Engaging for Climate in Oxford) to educate the community and promote a dialogue about climate change with art, which will exhibit in May.

While the Oxford Community Arts Center has partnered with Miami art departments before, this is the first project collaboration with a science department.

The middle school art club meets on Tuesdays at Talawanda Middle School but is also open to homeschool students and students from McGuffey Middle School regardless of skill level.

The only requirement is that they “want to be creative in some form,” Croswell said.