MIDDLETOWN—In light of persecution and terrorism around the world, an exhibit at SUNY Orange, which officially opened on Dec. 6, presented the work of high school students based on the Declaration of Human Rights.
A joint effort by the Orange County Human Rights Commission, the Orange County Arts Council, and SUNY Orange, the exhibit coincides with the UN’s adoption of the declaration on Dec. 10, 1948.
Students from high schools around the county created visual art—paintings, drawings, photographs, digital art, and sculpture—to express the meaning of an article in the declaration. Poetry and other literary submissions were displayed with the artwork.
For instance, Emily Poppe, a student at Washingtonville High School, did a sculpture on the “right to eat”(Article 25) by carving out ribs to show what it means not to have enough to eat. She said she was inspired by students making similar art, “so I wanted to make one of my own.”
Fred Cook, who chairs the county’s Human Rights Commission emceed the opening reception. “I think it’s very powerful. In fact, we have already had some reactions,” Cook said, referring to a piece which was removed by the student-artist after an incident.
This year some articles got more attention—18, 19 (freedom of opinion and expression), 1 (all free and equal), and 3 (right to life, liberty, and security of person). “I think the situation in the world today is about 18: ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion,'” Cook said.
Dorothy Szefc, who helped put the exhibit together, said SUNY Orange has been doing this for the past five years. “This is the kind of exhibit that makes people think.” She said people come together, especially students from the high schools. “They are done by students at different schools, so they do get to see each other.”
Other dignitaries made opening remarks. SUNY Orange President Dr. Kristine Young said she was happy to host the exhibit. “We need to be community educators.” She wants to start having discussions. “Let’s talk. Let’s talk in front of these pieces and let our young people know—for those of us who have been around the block a few times—what we’ve experienced.”
Students from 11 high schools throughout the county submitted 220 pieces which were assembled in exhibits on the Middletown and Newburgh campuses. The exhibit runs through Dec. 16.
Cook was joined by commission members Dr. Joseph Birnbaum and Nolly Climes. Deputy County Executive Wayne Booth invited everyone to walk around and receive the messages embedded in the artwork.
Birnbaum, who moved to Monroe over 60 years ago, said the county has changed. When he arrived, there was a local KuKluxKlan Klavern in Monroe. Remembering that gives him strong feelings about the importance of human rights.
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Article 1. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Article 3. Everyone has the right to life, liberty, and security of person.
Article 18. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance.
Article 19. Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.