We’ve given it a couple days for the photos to “develop,” as it were, of our Martin Luther King, Jr. Day “Art for Peace” exhibition, held at the Washington Street Arts Center in Vermillion, SD and co-sponsored by the SD Peace & Justice Center and the Vermillion Area Arts Council (VAAC). Students (literally K-12) from around southeastern South Dakota joined a variety of local artists in providing visual art for the event. More than 100 of those students (five first grade classes and one group of high schoolers) visited the exhibition during school hours on Friday, 18 January, where they learned about MLK’s legacy and art’s power to catalyze and support social justice.
Then, on MLK Day itself (Monday, 21 January), the Washington Street Arts Center played host to a further 100 children, parents, and Vermillion community members. A group of six college volunteers from the University of South Dakota’s MLK Day of Service stopped by in the afternoon to paint with the kids on our “I Have a Dream” community banner. And then a crowd of more than 30 gathered in the evening to hear an eclectic mix of music ranging from the children’s songs of Elaine Peacock to the 60s/70s throwbacks of local acoustic duo Good People to the pristine harmonies of the USD Chamber Singers before capping off the evening with an open mic poetry reading.
The arts are an incredibly profound tool for social change. They take what already exists—musical notes, paint, canvas, charcoal, wood, marble—and make something new out of it, something exciting, something unthought-of. The arts allow us to look at our world and see it, not as it is, but as it might be. The same creativity is required to work for change: you have to have a dream before you can work to make it a reality. And so I cannot think of a more appropriate tribute to MLK’s legacy than to fire the imagination of a community and bring people of many different races, creeds, and nationalities together to share in the experience of good art, good music, and what Brother Martin called “the beloved community.”
Photos of the event:
You can view more photos of the event here.