A visual connection

Local youths send ‘visual letters’ to China

Artwork from these Graveraet Elementary School students are part of a Òvisual lettersÓ project. From left are Henrik Rhoades, Ellia Marquardson, Emma Poggi, Anna Tuccini, Peter Argeropoulos and Evelyn (Evie) Carroll. (Photo courtesy of Marquette County 4-H)

A visual letter is like a written letter in that both tell stories, share important ideas and feelings, and connect children regardless of where they live.”

— LIANA GRAVES, program coordinator Marquette County 4-H

MARQUETTE — Letter writing is taking on a whole new art form, literally, in a program that connects children in the Western and Eastern hemispheres.

Thousands of Michigan youngsters in kindergarten through sixth grade participated in the 2019 Michigan 4-H Art Exchange with China. Of those thousands, 100 pieces were selected to send to China.

There was a local connection.

Artwork by Graveraet Elementary School students Peter Argeropoulos, Evelyn (Evie) Carroll, Ellia Marquardson, Emma Poggi, Henrik Rhoades and Anna Tuccini was part of that select group.

As part of the exchange, Michigan children were asked to draw or paint “visual letters” for Chinese children their own ages.

“A visual letter is like a written letter in that both tell stories, share important ideas and feelings, and connect children regardless of where they live,” Liana Graves, Marquette County 4-H program coordinator, said in a news release. “However, the medium is different in that visual letters use images. Written letters use words.”

Traci Busick, art and music teacher at Graveraet, said this was the fourth year her K-5 students at Graveraet have been involved in the 4-H Chinese Art Exchange.

Each year the school receives a different kit that includes beautiful artwork made from students in China, she said in an email.

“Our students get to view and discuss both modern and traditional style artwork that was created by the students in China,” Busick said. “Each piece gives us a little view of their life in China. We discuss the different styles of artwork as well as similarities and differences between their art styles and their culture with our own.”

Students then create their own visual letter art pieces that they believe represents their life in Marquette.

Each piece, then, would be as different as each individual life.

“Some students choose to draw their families, buildings or structures that they feel are special to our area, nature scenes or activities that they enjoy,” Busick said. “I choose 10 pieces created by the students at Graveraet to be sent to Michigan State University. At MSU, they are displayed with projects created for the exchange by students from all over Michigan.”

From there, some of the projects are chosen to be sent to China for the exchange.

“The students always work hard and are excited to see whose projects will be chosen,” Busick said. “The project is always a great way to analyze artwork, learn about another culture and create a piece of art that is meaningful to our students with the hopes to share it with others in another part of the world.”

The Michigan children’s artwork sent to China will be exhibited in schools in Shandong Province. It will be featured on the Michigan 4-H China Art website at https://www.canr.msu.edu/china_project/index.

Fourteen Michigan counties participated in the project by sending children’s artwork selected to represent their 4-H clubs, schools and after-school groups as part of the exchange. For Marquette, this included Sophia Burkhart, Peyton Davis, Stella Dehlin and Anthony Messica, all from Graveraet.

Graves thanked Busick for her work on the project.

“She works with nearly 300 students on this project every year,” Graves said. “Her passion is contagious and her students work hard to create ‘visual letters’ that mean a great deal to them, and will mean a lot to a young person who lives on the other side of the world.”

For more information about the 4-H Art Exchange and other 4-H programs, contact Graves at 906-315-2663 or deisenro@msu.edu.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.