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May 24, 2018, Hinckley, Ohio – A township in north-central Ohio seems a long way from Mosul, Iraq, or from the refugee camps in northern Iraq. But these distant areas were recently connected by a Japanese girl who folded paper cranes, a Dominican artist and art teacher who painted paper cranes, an elementary school art teacher, and a class of compassionate and innovative fifth-grade students.
This connection can now be seen in three small paintings of folded paper cranes displayed in the library of Hinckley Elementary School in Hinckley, Ohio. The cranes were brought to the school through the innovation of a fifth-grade art class that raised more than their goal of 1,000 quarters – a total of nearly $364 – from their classmates as a donation to support the work of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Mosul, Iraq.
Katie Hatch Massaro, the art teacher at Hinckley Elementary School in Hinckley, Ohio, has for 10 years been teaching her students the story of 1,000 paper cranes folded by Sadako Saski, a 12-year-old Japanese girl who was exposed to the atomic bomb at Hiroshima and died of leukemia 10 years later. The heart-wrenching story of this young girl inspired Sister Barbara Cervenka, OP, to create 1,000 small paintings of paper cranes, which can be adopted for a donation of $100. The donations have helped the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena who fled Mosul with hundreds of thousands of their neighbors on August 6, 2014, with the arrival of ISIS warriors. During their time in a refugee camp in northern Iraq, the Sisters opened schools and clinics to serve the needs of their fellow refugees.
Many of the Sisters and other refugees have since returned to their homes after ISIS was expelled, but now face the challenges of rebuilding their homes and churches that were destroyed.
“I’ve been teaching about paper cranes for 10 years,” said Katie, a student of Sister Barbara’s and a 2007 graduate of Siena Heights University. She teaches her fifth-grade classes the story of Sadako and how to fold the paper cranes. In recent years, she has followed this lesson up with the story of Sister Barbara’s project. “We talked about what it meant to be a refugee,” she said. They understood that the Sisters and neighbors were forced out of their homes, and that the donations would help the people.
Katie didn’t initiate the idea of the class making a donation for a crane in support of the refugees. “I wanted the kids to be self-motivated” and to come up with the idea on their own, she said.
Her wait came to an end this semester when a student suggested making a donation for one of the paintings, Katie recalled. Students discussed the idea during lunch and a small group approached her. “I worked with them through the whole process,” she said, by encouraging them to find a way that they could raise the money on their own. Students decided to collect 1,000 quarters from among their fifth-grade classmates.
“The kids assigned jobs to everyone in the class and even built their own website,” Katie recalled. They created a presentation for the principal, James Carpenter, and the Parent-Teacher Organization to secure permission and garner support for the project. Just two weeks after they presented the project to their classmates, they had exceeded their goal. Because they wanted to add framing to their order, they intended to order two cranes, but the PTO suggested they order three – and offered to supplement the money that the students had raised.
The process did not end there, Katie added. The class took a vote to choose the cranes paintings they wanted, choosing green cranes to match the school’s color.
The students later reflected on the impact that the project had on them. “It was tough and challenging, but it was worth it,” one student said. Others spoke of the impact they hoped the project will have on the Sisters in Iraq and the people they serve. “It was a good opportunity to help people and inspire other students once we’ve left Hinckley Elementary School,” one student said. Another made the connection to the story of the 1,000 cranes folded in Japan and to Sister Barbara. “The inspiration chain goes from Sadako to her classmates to the 1,000 Crane Project for Iraq to us at Hinckley Elementary,” the student said. “We hope it keeps going!”
Katie is very proud of her fifth-grade class, which will graduate at the end of May from Hinckley Elementary School and move on to middle school. “I’ve always seen leadership and initiative in a lot of them,” she said. “It was a privilege to be able to walk them through this process and watch them stretch their wings for the first time.” Noting that she had taught art to that class since they were in kindergarten, she added, “It’s an honor to see them come as kindergartners and leave so grown up, young teenagers.”
Katie hopes all of her students benefit from their study of art. “I want them to leave me knowing that art can make a difference, that art is part of our culture. It’s part of our identity,” she said. “I want them to have an appreciation for art.”
Fifth-grade students from Hinckley Elementary School, Hinckley, Ohio, pose with the three cranes that they ordered with their donation to the 1,000 Cranes for Iraq Project. Photo Courtesy of Hinckley Elementary School
August 2, 2017, Adrian, Michigan – Sister Janet Wright, OP (Adrian), painter and art teacher, received the Fra Angelico Award July 28 from the Dominican Institute for the Arts (DIA). The Fra Angelico Award – named after the great 15th-century Dominican artist – is the highest honor that the DIA bestows on its members.
The Fra Angelico Award presentation was one of the highlights of the 2017 DIA Gathering, which brought Dominican artists – visual artists, sculptors, musicians, poets, photographers, film-makers, and other artists – to Weber Center in Adrian July 26-29.
In making the presentation, Sister Barbara Schwarz, OP (Amityville), President of the DIA, said that Sister Janet’s paintings “reflect the voice of God found in nature. Painting is her passion, and spirituality is very much woven into her art.” Sister Janet’s paintings can be seen throughout the Adrian Dominican Motherhouse, and one of her paintings, of corn, adorns the second volume of Adrian Dominican history, Seeds Scattered and Grown, by Sister Nadine Foley, OP.
Sister Barbara also mentioned Sister Janet’s dedication to teaching art. “For almost four decades, she nurtured the love of art in high school students and for the past 14 years she offered weekly painting classes to the Sisters of Mercy,” Sister Barbara said. In addition, Sister Janet has been active in the DIA, serving on many planning commissions for the Gatherings.
Also during the award ceremony, Sister Mary Boyce, MM (Maryknoll), received the Spirit Award for her service to the DIA. Sister Mary “has been educating and empowering the poor in the United States and in foreign missions,” said Sister Mary Pat Reid, OP (Caldwell). Sister Mary was also honored for her service to the DIA as Vice President, and for helping whenever asked “with a radiant and open-hearted spirit.”
The 2017 Gathering began July 26 with an opening session in which Sister Joella Miller, OP (Adrian), Chair of the Planning Commission, welcomed the guests. Also on hand to welcome the DIA members were Sister Barbara Schwarz and Sisters Frances Nadolny, OP (Adrian), General Councilor, and Janet Doyle, OP (Adrian), Director of Weber Center. Members of the Planning Commission were Pat Daly, an Associate with the Dominican Sisters of Peace, and Adrian Dominican Sisters Barbara Cervenka, OP; Aneesah McNamee, OP; Suzanne Schreiber, OP; Nancyann Turner, OP; and Janet Wright, OP.
The theme for the Gathering, “Response,” reflected the call of the artist to respond to instances of social injustice. Sister Suzanne Schreiber, OP (Adrian), a photographer and teacher, followed up on the theme July 27 in her keynote address, “The Art of Käthe Kollwitz.” Making extensive use of slides of the German expressionist artist’s drawings, etchings, and sculptures, Sister Sue explained how Kollwitz used her art to respond to the injustices of her day.
The keynote address was delivered during the same month as that marked the 150th anniversary of Käthe Kollwitz’s birth. The artist died on April 22, 1945, a few days before the end of World War II.
“Käthe Kollwitz lived through imperialism, economic depression, the Industrial Revolution, and two world wars,” Sister Sue said. “She developed as an artist and maintained a specific vision as a compassionate social critic, advocate for women and children, and peacemaker. We might even say that she was the conscience of Germany during those perilous years.”
Sister Sue noted that Kollwitz had a particular love for people of the working class and for the women of her day, portraying them realistically, as she saw them, and not the idealized versions sometimes seen in art. She lived through a time of great promise for women – the early 20th Century – but also a time, with the rise of Adolph Hitler, when many of the gains made by women were taken away.
“For Käthe Kollwitz, awareness of social injustice and commitment to action were focused and integrated, and they reflected a change in her consciousness,” Sister Sue said. A turning point in Kollwitz’s life was the death of her son Peter on the Belgian front during World War I. She became a pacifist, portraying the senselessness of war and the grief of parents who lost their children in war.
Sister Sue concluded her address by inviting the artists to view reproductions of Kollwitz’s work, which were on display in INAI, which houses a gallery adjacent to Weber Center. This building had once been the studio of Sisters Barbara Chenicek, OP, and Rita Schiltz, OP, who for about 40 years had designed worship spaces for parishes, religious congregations, hospitals, and other entities. A panel discussion on art therapy followed.
The Dominican artists spent much of their time attending DIA meetings and art workshops. During the business meeting on July 28, DIA members elected the 2017-2018 Board of Directors: Pat Daly, Associate of Peace, President; Sparkill Dominican Sister Ann Marie Santen, OP, Vice President; Adrian Dominican Sister Aneesah McNamee, OP, Secretary; Adrian Dominican Sister Joella Miller, OP, Treasurer; Judith Smith, an Associate of the Dominican Sisters of Peace, Membership; and Friars Rudolf Loewenstein, English Province, and Joseph Kilikevice, OP, Central Province, Members at Large.
Father Rudolf presided at the closing Liturgy on July 28. In her reflection, Adrian Dominican Sister Barbara Cervenka, OP, noted the diversity of artists at the gathering: poets, musicians, painters, photographers – focusing on Jesus, the storyteller.
“Jesus seemed always engaged by the mystery at the heart of things,” Sister Barbara said. “He noticed the preciousness of a single bird and the fleeting beauty of flowers. He urged his disciples to see, to pay attention, to live in a world where the miraculous bloomed in the everyday, where God’s presence was so palpable that everything spoke of it.” Artists, she added, “are invited to inhabit and share that world. … We are called to notice and hear the word of God spoken and writ large on the face of the earth.”
The DIA is a grassroots collaboration of artists from the Order of Preachers – friars, sisters, associates, and laity – who are committed to preaching through the arts.
Feature photo (top): Sister Janet Wright, OP, with the Fra Angelico Award
Top: DIA members take in the exhibit of Käthe Kollwitz reproductions in the INAI Studio. Bottom: DIA members take in the exhibit of Käthe Kollwitz reproductions in the INAI Studio.