Editor’s note: This regular feature explores topics discussed in past issues of the Aztec Press.
By SIERRA J. RUSSELL
When Katherine Josten formed the Global Art Project 20 years ago, she was a Pima Community College instructor seeking a way to unite people from around the world.
Her idea began to take shape in the spring of 1994 as she worked with fellow artists and collaborators to organize the first Global Art Project.
Within six years, the project had grown to such an extent that Josten decided to resign from teaching to dedicate more time to the nonprofit organization.
Josten said it was a sacrifice because she thoroughly enjoyed working with students and faculty at PCC for more than a decade. However, she was ready to commit to the growing vision.
GAP takes place every two years and continues to expand its reach. Today there are 87 countries involved, with recent additions including East Timor, Bulgaria and Peru.
The process involves participants from around the world who submit a piece of art that represents their image of peace and unity. Josten and fellow coordinators handle an assortment of mediums.
Approximately half of the submissions come from children. They are typically collected by the end of February, and exchanged near the end of April to coincide with Earth Day.
The Aztec Press interviewed Josten about GAP in 1994.
“It’s a perfect way of expressing that we are all one,” she said. “It’s also a way for all people to connect, by putting an idea in the physical form.”
GAP’s aim is to connect participants from one household to another. It begins by pairing participants, typically based on the geography and age of contributors. The size of a group may range from two to 2,000.
Each participant creates artwork and displays it locally in coffee shops, libraries or anywhere the artist deems suitable.
The artist then exchanges with another contributor as a symbol of connection and peace. Artists are encouraged to include a photo and/or personal note for their recipient. Recipients can display the artwork or take their newly acquired gift home. A digital copy is stored in the GAP Art Bank.
There is no official exhibit scheduled in Tucson this year.
Josten recently spoke with Arizona Public Media about the project’s evolution. She said GAP has become more involved with schools, ranging from kindergarten to the graduate level.
Many teachers find participation to be a valuable tool that demonstrates the importance of self expression and global harmony.
“Peace is so needed, especially at this time when there is so much change going on,” Josten said. “We can’t find peace within this world until we find peace within ourselves.”
Josten encourages anyone interested to start planning for the 2016 exchange. Organization will begin in 2015.
She admits that even with 200 regional coordinators, administration of such a vast program can be a hassle.
However, when Josten sees the works submitted and hears the stories of their creation, her enthusiasm is renewed.
For more information about future submissions and upcoming events, visit globalartproject.org. Information is also available at facebook.com/GlobalArtProject.