UNC student group works in local middle school to promote arts, international ties

Will exchange projects with Chinese

kidsartscrap_elizabeth_mendoza

Freshman biology major Lilijana Karan works with a UNC student group called Postcards for Progress at A.L. Stanback Middle School to encourage international cultural ties through art by creating “altered books.”

Adults may chastise children for gluing, tearing and writing in their favorite books, but Ljiljana Karan doesn’t.

In fact, she encourages it.

This semester, the UNC freshman is working with eighth graders at A.L. Stanback Middle School through Postcards for Progress, a UNC student group dedicated to encouraging international cultural ties through the arts.

One of five artistic coordinators for the group, Karan came up with the idea to create “altered books” — used books full of art, notes and photographs.

“It’s a unique way to have pages of your favorite books be filled with anything and everything about yourself,” Karan said.

Laura Ziemba, the Hillsborough-based middle school’s art teacher, will help the eighth-graders to create their projects, which they will send to young students at a school in Beijing, China.

The two schools are working to establish long-term communication that encourages the arts.

“We look at so much different art from all over the world,” Ziemba said. “They’re anxious to see how the Chinese kids portray themselves.”

Ziemba, an artist who has been teaching for 22 years, said that the altered books allow more room for creativity than do more disciplined self-portrait projects.

“It’s neat to take a book that’s concrete and make it abstract,” Ziemba said. “It’s going to show a little more about their personality.”

Karan was born in Bosnia-Herzegovina but has lived in Charlotte for 13 years. Her cultural background motivates her to participate in Postcards for Progress, she said.

“I’ve always had diverse friends that I’ve learned from, and I’ve seen the benefits of cultural exchange,” Karan said.

“Art has always been a big part of my life, and I think people often forget about arts education,” she said.

“It bridges that gap of misunderstanding that may exist.”

Arts coordinators will also be working on a self-portrait project, a found object exchange and a dance performance with the eight-graders.

“Over the course of the semester, the projects will serve as a basis for understanding, and the understanding will serve as the basis for friendship,” said sophomore Brendan Yorke, director of Postcards for Progress.

In addition to an artistic exchange, the kids intend to use Skype to connect with their new pen pals.

Yorke said he hopes that the kids will collaborate on topics such as the environment, health care and education.

“The possibilities are really endless,” Yorke said.

In addition to enhancing students’ cultural understanding, Postcards for Progress provides a glimpse into what college is actually about, Ziemba said.

“I’m just really thrilled that the University is promoting this,” she said.

“It gives the kids the chance to see that college isn’t just about sitting in a classroom.”

Contact the Arts Editor at arts@dailytarheel.com.

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