Slemani, Iraq and Maine, USA are virtually a world apart – separated by nearly 6,000 miles of land and sea. With the help of Detroit-based street artist Pat Perry, however, fifth-grade children from each country have found a way to close the distance.
In partnership with Awareness & Prevention Through Art (aptART) and the Good Works Foundation, Perry launched a project to create two large-scale murals – one in Iraq and one in the United States. The overarching vision of the artworks was to teach children to show love and kindness to the world around them, starting with a class of their peers, thousands of miles away.
At the start of the project, children in both classrooms began to share details about their respective cultures and daily lives. They exchanged drawings, videos, stories, and photos to help build a rapport and an understanding of what life is like for a fifth-grader in each country.
Perry traveled to both locations, spending time with the children in each classroom and listening to their stories. He gathered inspiration from what the children had learned from each other, as well as from what he learned from them. As he interacted with the children, the idea for the social project, named “Opening Lines,” began to take shape.
The results of Perry’s classroom immersion are two large-scale murals, one in Slemani and one in Maine. They are a pictorial representation of the open communication that takes place when members of society listen to and befriend different people groups and cultures.
The children of each classroom contributed directly to the project, painting English and Arabic messages of love and friendship on each mural. The resulting statement is a beautiful metaphor for the power of communication and understanding across cultures.