Project uses art to confront bullying

Even at 5 years old, Katie Quinley said she knows what it’s like to be bullied.

“They pulled on my shirt and stretched it out,” she said.

The Mills Lawn School kindergartener has been learning how to be a peacemaker instead, but in a very unconventional way — through art. So far, the lesson is sticking.

“I’ve been talking about what you should do if a bully is talking to you,” Quinley said. “If somebody is being mean to you or bullying you, you should tell them, ‘I don’t like that’ and then they will stop and think about what they’re doing.”

For eight weeks, students at the Yellow Springs school have researched famous peacemakers, such as Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Gandhi, for Project Peace: Confronting Bullying Through Art. Then they took a hands-on approach to their messages, stitching and dyeing tapestries with their words.

“You’re able to have this lasting visual effect that stays with the kids. They’ll have this as a reminder on a regular basis as they walk through the halls of the school,” said Allison Paul, director of John Bryan Community Pottery and a resident artisan assisting with the anti-bullying project.

The art will be on display for the public from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday at Antioch University.

Effie Palassis, a sixth grader at the school, enjoyed sewing the rays around each peacemaker, and helping other students write affirmations on blue-dyed tassels that were tied around each tapestry.

“We all learned how to stop bad things from happening and not be a bully,” she said.

The important lesson has been showing kids that there’s no “elusive figure, the bully” but that anyone can hurt someone’s feelings, said Deb Housh, arts and cultural manager for the Yellow Springs Arts Council.

“Especially with the younger kids, everyone has the capability to make a good choice or a bad choice,” she said. “And anyone who’s made a bad choice can still be someone’s best friend.”