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March 13, 2012
Art students at Northwest Missouri State University are exchanging ideas, thoughts, artwork and personal experiences with a group of peers halfway around the world through a unique international cultural exchange that also is raising social awareness.
The Kashmir Crossover, a consortium Northwest students formed last fall with art students at the University of Kashmir in Srinagar, Kashmir, will culminate with an April 2 exhibit opening in Northwest’s Olive DeLuce Fine Arts Building. The 8:30 p.m. opening at Northwest will coincide with a simultaneous opening in Srinagar, where it will be 8 a.m. April 3 because of the 11 ½-hour time difference between the two locations. The exhibit is free and open to the public.
Via Skype, the artists will introduce their work and speak to the joint audience, while photos of the artwork will be projected onto the walls of the respective galleries. The exhibit will include all types of media, including sculptures, paintings, drawings and prints. It also will feature videos of the artists discussing their experiences and the impact the exchange has had on them.
The vice chancellor of the University of Kashmir and the director of that school’s fine arts program will take part in the opening of the exhibit as well as Northwest President Dr. John Jasinski and Provost Dr. Doug Dunham.
“I am so very proud of our students and the hard work they are doing to make this project happen,” Dr. Martha Breckenridge, Northwest assistant professor of art, said. “Ultimately, we hope to make Kashmir Crossover an ongoing project that promotes peace at the same time as it enriches the art students’ university experience.”
The Kashmir Crossover began to materialize last fall when Adil Abbas Sheikh, a Kashmiri MBA student at Northwest, brought the idea of a collaborative project to Breckenridge. Sheikh had helped organize art exchanges in Kashmir, located in South Asia, and wanted to develop the concept at Northwest.
“I always want to promote art because of the condition back in Kashmir; it’s a conflict zone,” Sheikh said. “Not much improvement and development has taken place in other sectors. Art has really suffered because of the conflict in Kashmir.”
The Kashmir conflict dates back to Britain’s withdrawal from the Indian subcontinent in 1947, which created India and Pakistan as independent states. Autonomous states such as Kashmir, however, were allowed to choose their allegiance and Kashmir’s ruler chose to side with India, going against Kashmir’s Muslim majority. Most Kashmiris living in the region today have grown up around Pakistani and Kashmiri militants and Indian forces fighting in the streets.
Sheikh, who calls himself “a conflict child,” says the unrest has deeply influenced Kashmiri artwork.
“If there is a conflict in an area, everything else suffers and everything shows conflict,” he said. “People here will see how different the artwork there is, and the Kashmiri people will experience what the art on this side of the world shows.”
From Sheikh’s conversation with Breckenridge, the goals for the international art exchange emerged. The students in Kappa Pi, Northwest’s honorary art fraternity, helped draft a mission statement, design a logo, set up a Facebook page and build a website. A total of about 40 students on both sides of the globe are collaborating by email, Skype and other electronic means to become acquainted with one another’s artwork, cultures and lives.
But the Northwest students developed a deeper connection to the project after Sheikh explained that Kashmiri art students can barely afford to buy basic art supplies. In Kashmir artistry is not accepted as a profession, and most parents steer their children toward engineering or medicine.
The Northwest students jumped into action, selling their handmade ceramics, jewelry and greeting cards in Northwest’s Student Union to raise money. They also sold handmade ceramic teacups with Kashmiri hot tea, called Kahwa, sent by Sheikh’s family in Srinagar.
So far, the fundraising efforts have earned more than $700 – enough to pay for art supplies and a full year’s tuition to the Kashmir Art School for three students. The scholarships will be awarded during the April 2 exhibit opening.
“We were all really interested in the idea and almost shocked to hear they couldn’t afford small entry fees for art shows or pay for supplies, when we have an art store in the basement (of the fine arts building),” said Rachel Hicks, a Kappa Pi member who is co-chairing the Kashmir Crossover with Sheikh. “All of us want to support other artists, and it’s just been a great opportunity to exchange ideas and culture with these other artists. That kind of exposure can elevate your own work.”
After the exhibit’s opening, digital photos of the artwork will be displayed on the Kashmir Crossover website. However, Sheikh and the art students on both sides of the world hope the exchange has an impact that lasts long after the students complete their work.
“We are looking forward to creating history,” Sheikh said. “We’re not looking to keep it confined to Missouri or Maryville. We want to promote the art everywhere.”
Regular DeLuce Gallery hours are 6 to 9 p.m. Mondays, 1 to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 1:30 to 5 p.m. Sundays.
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468