Updated: Mar 7
Every year I make a point of spending time in Sarasota’s Bayfront Park during the annual Embracing Our Differences outdoor art exhibit to see the vast open green space transformed into a colorful landscape of oversized works of art and powerful messages about diversity, inclusion, and kindness.
This year’s call for submissions garnered more than 17,000 entries from 123 countries and 47 states, according to embracingourdifferences.org. Every one of the 50 pieces selected for this year’s show commands your attention, and they all are as beautiful as they are inspiring.
The artwork and quotations are judged separately and then matched together and created into bulletin board-sized displays.
Sarah Wertheimer, EOD executive director, said the selection criteria boil down to medium and message: “What is the core idea of each submission and how well is it expressed? Judges try to imagine the impact the artwork will have when it’s enlarged to the size of a billboard.”
These pieces certainly will stop you in your tracks.
Based in Sarasota, EOD is a nonprofit organization that “uses the power of art and education to expand consciousness and open the heart to celebrate the diversity of the human family.” The juried show has attracted 3.7 million visitors since it was first held in 2004.
In addition to the exhibit, the organization sponsors educational initiatives, programs and classroom resources that support the exhibit’s theme of enriching lives through diversity and inclusion.
EOD gives out $1,000 Best-in-Show awards, and this year’s winners were Samantha Miller of Sarasota in the Adult Category for her work, “Cultivation,” and 9th grader Mia Gonzalez of Bradenton in the Student Category for “Cultural Buffet,” which depicts women from Japan and South Africa enjoying foods from their ethnic heritages. Alicia Chalmers of Bradenton won Best-In-Show for her quotation: “We are so much better united in kindness than divided in anger."
Awards are also given in People’s Choice categories, which will be chosen by visitors to the exhibit.
In her artist statement for “Cultivation” — a garden of blooming, withering and dead flowers — Miller wrote: “Just like plants, we grow depending on what we feed ourselves. If we continually live with hate, jealousy and resentment, then we will fail to bloom. By feeding ourselves positive attributes we can grow and help others.”
No doubt a message the entire world could use right now.
Anyone in the Sarasota area should make a point of visiting Bayfront Park and Marina/Island Park, which is beautiful in its own right, to see the Embracing Our Differences exhibit on display through April 10.