Sharon Sullivan

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December 6, 2012
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Fruita Monument students collaborate on national art installation

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - Two-thousand clay bones are part of a provocative new art project by the Fruita Monument High School Art Club, designed to raise awareness of genocide around the world.

The clay bones are destined for Washington, D.C., where they will become part of an art installation on the National Mall, opening June 8, 2013.

Art has long been used as a medium to raise awareness of social issues. One Million Bones was founded in 2009, by installation artist Naomi Natale, whose goal is to collect one million bones for the project in Washington. The installation "will serve as a collaborative site of conscience to remember victims and survivors," the One Million Bones website states.

For every bone created, the Bezos Family Foundation will donate $1 to CARE, a humanitarian organization for relief and rebuilding programs that directly benefit young people in war-torn countries.

Each year the FMHS art department chooses a community art project where students spend hours on a major artwork outside of regular school time. After art teacher Tammie Widhammer learned about One Million Bones, she asked her students: "What do you think?"

They loved the idea, Widhammer said.

"We wanted to do something social - in the community and the world. Something that made an impact," 17-year old student Taylor Belleville said.

Siblings, parents, and other FMHS students and staff members collaborated on the project. East and Orchard Mesa middle school students also contributed to the cause.

Being a community project means "anyone, any age, and any level can work on it," Widhammer said.

Jordan Zambrano, 17, showed a new group of student participants - members of the student Senate - how to make bones during an after-school session Tuesday. Zambrano, along with Belleville and another art student, Amanda Basinger, have led the project.

Zambrano said she is impressed with how the community came together and helped raise money for the cause.

Working in partnership with One Million Bones was Students Rebuild - a collaborative initiative of the Bezos Family Foundation which encourages young people to learn and take action on critical global issues. Students Rebuild asked young people worldwide to make bone replicas as a symbol of solidarity with victims and survivors of ongoing conflict in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia.

MacKenzie Schuller, 17, and Savannah Ashmore, 16, worked side by side at an after-school work session earlier this week, rolling clay to make "ribs," and other bones. Work sessions are held two or three nights a week and occasionally Saturdays.

Both say the art project has taught them about genocide in the world.

"I'd kind of heard about it, but didn't know much," Schuller said. "I've learned how it affects so many people, and how a lot of people are not really aware of it. This will raise awareness."

By Tuesday, the Fruita school art department had generated 1,194 bones. The students' goal is to send 2,000 clay bones to Washington.

"As long as we make 80 bones an hour for the next 10 hours, we'll get there," Belleville said.

Students will do their own installation in the FMHS auditorium, which will be open to the public Jan. 9, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Jan. 10 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Students will be present to answer questions.

On the following day, art teachers Widhammer and Leah Allard, plus Belleville, Zambrano and Basinger will pack up the bones and drive to the Front Range for a statewide collaborative installation that opens Jan. 12. The exhibit, at Rodeo Market Gallery in Westminster will be up for a month.

A Colorado coordinator will transport the bones to Washington in the spring.

Clay is fragile - during the kiln-firing process and during transportation, Widhammer said.

"Getting them to the National Mall will be interesting because they are fragile. This being about genocide, that fits right in," she said.

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The Post Independent Updated Dec 6, 2012 07:03PM Published Dec 6, 2012 05:48PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.