Host: This year’s edition of “Embracing Our Difference” opened last weekend. Sign of the political times: The event attracted thousands of Sarasotans who apparently want to – well – embrace the message of diversity, inclusion and overall kindness. We talked to Sarah Wertheimer, executive director of the organization, about the exhibit that features oversized pieces of art both by teenagers and by well-established artists.
[sound of high school students at exhibition]
Johannes Werner: This is the happy noise of a Riverview high school class having their group picture taken by a teacher, after touring the art exhibit in the Bayfront Park near downtown Sarasota on a breezy and cool morning this week. These students are at the core of what the organizers of the Embracing Our Differences exhibition want to achieve. Executive Director Sarah Wertheimer explains.
Sarah Wertheimer: That really is the most important part of what we do — our year-round education program, where we work very closely with students and teachers and Manatee, Pinellas and Sarasota County schools. We work with public, private and charter schools. And we have a lot of different programs that we do throughout the year with them. But when the exhibit is on display, we offer free field trips. We pay for the busing, transportation, so that there is zero cost to the students or the teachers. And then we provide them with lesson plans and curriculum that they can use before, during and after. And all of those lesson plans and curriculum are approved by the school district field specialists, so that they are aligned to the Florida standards, and they are age-appropriate.
JW: The opening of the 21st edition of Embracing Our Differences on Sunday attracted thousands of people.
SW: We were really excited that so many people from the community did come out, to celebrate with us. We estimate that it was a little bit over 4,000 people who were there during the three hours that we were all celebrating together. So it was a really positive, energetic atmosphere, and really uplifting for all of us.
JW: Here are some of the highlights of this year’s art.
SW: We did have artists from around the state and around the country, who did come and hang out with us and celebrate with us that day. So that was really fantastic. We do have a Best in Show adult artwork and Best in Show student artwork for this year’s exhibit. The adult artwork is called ‘Handle with Care’ and it’s by Samantha Dennis, and then we have the Best in Show student artwork; it is ‘Are my Roots Showing?’, and that’s from Sylvia Tirado, and she is from the United Kingdom.
Tirado’s “Are My Roots Showing?”
JW: The current political atmosphere has not changed anything the organizers are doing, says Wertheimer.
SW: Well, we really are not a political organization in any way, shape, or form. And we never want to be a political organization. So nothing about the work that we do, or nothing about our art exhibition has changed due to anything in the political climate locally or around the world. We really are just here as an outlet to let artists and writers express themselves through their artwork and through their quotations.
JW: But, she adds, the message is needed more than ever.
SW: These positive messages of kindness, respect and inclusion are needed now more than ever before, when so many are feeling so divided, and feeling so alone. It’s really important for us to come together and celebrate our differences, but also recognize our shared common humanity.
JW: The exhibit will run through March 12 at the Bayfront Park in downtown Sarasota. It is free and open during the regular park hours. On March 22, Embracing Our Differences will open at Butler Park in North Port. More information here: https://www.embracingourdifferences.org/
Reporting for WSLR News, this has been Johannes Werner.
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