BY DAVE PEROZEK, Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — A high school art project helped students gain a new perspective by connecting them with people of the Islamic faith.
Fayetteville High School students in Ashley Grisso’s advanced placement world history classes worked in groups of two or three. They interviewed Muslims in the community, then told their stories through art.
The students’ work was on display recently at the University of Arkansas‘ Kittrell Art Gallery. Each piece of the “Putting a Face on Islam” exhibit was accompanied by a one-page artist statement about the work. Students and their subjects gathered one evening for a reception at the gallery.
“It’s really great to be able to understand a person from a different culture, because you might see stuff on the news and read about stuff, but there’s like, a person right there,” Peter Herman, a Fayetteville High School junior, said to the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Herman worked with classmates Robert Benafield and Grady Cape. They interviewed a man identified in the statement as only Amel. He was born and raised in the Comoro Islands, off the east coast of Africa. Amel is pursuing a master’s degree in public health at the university.
The boys’ piece of art is a collage on paper, divided in halves. The left half, with a purple background, depicts some of the negativity Muslims feel from America. A quote from Amel — “I was so scared to show my religion to America” — is at the center of that half.
The other half, with a white background, was meant to showcase Amel’s jolly personality. It includes a picture of him with a broad smile standing on the university campus.
The high school students met their subjects during an event arranged by Cynthia Smith, assistant director of outreach programs in the university’s department of International Students and Scholars.