I traveled to Toronto for the International AIDS Conference last summer, I collected art in the form of "leaves" from people attending the conference. I have created a large tree of life mosaic using those leaves and incorporating objects and text from the conference. The piece is 4 foot x 6 foot. I will have a picture up soon on my website.
I would like to show this piece at The AIDS Conference in Mexico in 2008. I would also be interested in showing it at other venues, as well as doing new similar projects with others.
I have included 2 newspaper articles about the "tree" and my work with my students.
I look forward to any questions, comments or suggestions.
Art at the Crossroads: A local alternative school tries something different this year with relevant art... and chicken coops? By Ellen Spitaleri
Meyrick, the art teacher at Oregon City's Crossroads School, and her students will host an art show, opening on March 6, at the Carnegie Center. Featured at the show, which continues throughout the month, will be a student-built chicken coop, student art based on the theme of "Global Community," and Meyrick's art, which will be for sale.
Why chicken coops?
Crossroads students usually go on a humanitarian-aid trip every year, often in conjunction with Northwest Medical Teams, where they assist in building schools and housing.
This year, because of a variety of issues, there will be no field trip. Since students still wanted to do something to help, they have chosen to get involved with the Chicken Coop Income Generating Project in Kenya and Mexico. Meyrick explained that the project raises money to give to women and children in developing countries, so that they can build chicken coops and raise chickens.
The women, often widows, form co-ops, and together sell the chickens and eggs to generate an income for themselves. "This empowers the women and can pay school fees for the children," Meyrick said.
She noted that the chicken coop project provides loans to the women, and when they pay the loans back, that provides "seed money" for the next group of women. Meyrick said she chose to work with people in Kenya, because one of the young men helping with the program there started out as her daughter's pen pal.
"He has to work three months, picking coffee beans, to earn $40," so he can pay school fees, Meyrick noted. "I wanted my students to see how hard other kids work to go to school," she added.
Kathi Gerspach, who teaches environmental science, cultural awareness and health at Crossroads School, also is involved with the chicken coop project.In fact, she is going with a group of Clackamas County residents to Uganda in June to work with the Invisible Children project.
"They are refugees from the war in Sudan--we are taking money and they will build chicken coops at the orphanage," she said. "The chicken coop project is a cool project. A family can raise eight to 10 chickens and improve their own nutrition, and they can sell the excess [eggs or meat] and bring in money," she explained. Studies have shown that the chicken coop project "radically changed the quality of life and improved the health of children," Gerspach added.
She also said that the project provides plans to build the coops and veterinarians are on-site to make sure the chickens are healthy. "It's a good practical way to help someone in a developing country and provide a way for them to have better nutrition and an income," she said.
Crossroads students are building a coop for display at the Carnegie Center, and they are making posters to explain to visitors the benefits of the chicken coop project. One of the builders is Kelly Gooderham, a senior. For him the benefit of the chicken coop is it "makes the family self sufficient and gives them a way to create their own resources," he said.
Mosaics on display showcase student talents. Meanwhile, back in the art world, Meyrick has asked her students to design mosaics around the theme of community building. They are focusing on five areas she said: clean water and sanitation, food security, health and wellness, education and income-generating opportunities.
She hopes visitors will come to the opening of the art show on March 6 and chat with students about their projects and their art. Students will also be serving a barbeque meal, with all proceeds going to the chicken coop project. Anthony Akins, a senior, will exhibit his mosaic of a cow, to showcase his project on food security. "Students should know more about how we get food and how in other countries kids are starving...that needs to be more publicized," he said.
Meyrick will also show her own art, and will display a large mosaic piece she calls a "Tree of Life." This piece came into being during her visit last summer to the international AIDS conference in Toronto, Canada.
She set up a "global village" at the conference, and brought in art supplies. She then collected leaves designed by people from all over the world and attached them to the tree. "The purpose of the tree is to symbolize the way we are all connected in a global community. I designed the piece, and my students are helping to fill in the glass," she said.
The piece incorporates 24,000 BB's, and there are images under the clear glass tiles, Meyrick noted. She added that she has set up a non-profit organization to "assist with community development projects locally and globally." Her website can be accessed at www.herainternationalcommunity.org
The "Tree of Life" will not be for sale at the Carnegie Center show, Meyrick said, because she plans to take it with her to the International AIDS conference in Mexico City in 2008.
Artist Anna Meyrick inspires Crossroads students to aid the needy
OREGON CITY -- Anna Meyrick believes in making life a work of art, and in using art to make connections with people in other cultures.
Meyrick, 37, of Oregon City, has been making art most of her life, and mosaic -- usually the arrangement of small pieces of rock or glass of different shapes and colors -- is her medium. It's also the medium she teaches her students at Crossroads Alternative School who have been collecting information about people in underdeveloped countries.
Using paper and paint as well as glass, the students are creating mosaics indicating what they have learned about the needs of people in Africa, Central America and North America. They have researched clean water and sanitation, food security, health and wellness, education and income-generating activities.
Crossroads' 28 students in grades seven through 12 will exhibit their mosaics, in conjunction with a show of Meyrick's art in the Carnegie Center in Oregon City.
In addition to their art, which will be for sale, the students will display a chicken coop they made to show how they hope to help a group of widows in Mombassa, Kenya, become self-supporting by raising chickens.
A percentage of proceeds from their art sales will become seed money for small loans offered to the widows through Hera International Community, a nonprofit organization Meyrick started. Hera works with the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, Meyrick said.
"I want to involve students in real-life projects," Meyrick said. "I believe art has a meaning and a message, and it can help students learn social responsibility in ways that fit their individual learning styles."
In past years, Crossroads students, who are referred by five contracting school districts because regular classrooms don't fit their learning styles, have raised money to travel to Latin America. Working with Tigard-based Northwest Medical Teams (which recently changed its name to Medical Teams International) they helped build classrooms in Honduras in 2004 and pour concrete floors for squatters' dwellings in Mexico City in 2006.
Brittney Kassahn, 16, of Oregon City, who went to Mexico last year, is researching African health issues this year, and the mosaic she worked on provides information about them.
"The awareness level is very low on what AIDS is and how to prevent its spread," she said. "The information we're going to put out, hopefully, will inspire people to do more about this." Art is one way people can absorb information, said Meyrick, who works with this philosophy: "Make your life a work of art. Make it count."