4-H art exchange connects kids, culture

MARQUETTE – Artwork created by students in Marquette and Alger counties will find a new home in Chinese classrooms as part of the Michigan 4-H Art Exchange with China.

The program has elementary-age students in both countries complete a piece of art that portrays their own lives so students all the way across the globe can understand each other better.

“It connects them, beyond the small area that we live in,” said Liana Graves, Marquette and Alger counties 4-H coordinator. “It connects them to a much broader world and helps them realize that there are kids on the other side of the world that are just like them. It just really personalizes a global way of thinking.”

Each year, the program’s participants are invited to send a “visual letter” to children their own ages in China.

“A visual letter is like a written letter in that both tell stories, share important ideas and feelings, and connect children regardless of where they live. However, the medium is different in that visual letters use images, written letters use words,” Grave said.

Graves said many kids chose to showcase their favorite winter activities, including skiing and sledding.

In Alger County, each grade chose a design element and worked from there.

“First-graders chose to do a cardinal. They used newspaper to create the nest and a tree so that they were actually passing on an English newspaper,” Graves said.

Third-graders decided to draw Lego people, dressing them up in their favorite sports teams’ jerseys or giving them Munising Mustangs shirts to wear.

In fifth grade, students made a guitar and decorated it however they wished.

“They picked those three different things because they thought the Chinese children would relate to those things,” Graves said.

Thirty-six counties in Michigan participated this year, allowing thousands of kids to engage in written, oral and visual activities to help them learn about Chinese culture and customs. Of those thousands, 100 pieces were selected to send to China.

“It touches on language arts and social studies as well as arts, so art reachers really love it because they can touch on benchmarks that they need,” Graves said. “It’s a learn by doing project so kids are learning about the other side of the world but they’re also connecting themselves to it.”

Students from Marquette whose artwork was chosen are Hannah Bleckliner, Jordan Haynes, Nate Cromell, and Jessie Berry from Superior Hills Elementary School; Peyton Osborne, Morgan Amann, Lily Frayer, and Mena Thompson from Cherry Creek Elementary School; and Jadzia Braamse, Michael Kopsi, Autumn Gouldman, Alexa Whaley, Abigail Hellman, and Josiah Carlisle from Sandy Knoll Elementary School.

In Alger County, artwork by Jacob VanLandschoot and Natalie Steinhoff from Mather Elementary School and Hannah Lindquist and Ainsley Bonevele from Munising 4-H Club was part of that select group.

All the Michigan children’s artwork sent to China will be exhibited in schools in Shandong Province. The artwork will also be featured on the Michigan 4-H China Art website 4h.msue.msu.edu/programs/arts/china_project.