Woods school trio

Woods Elementary School eighth-graders Zach Bauman, from left, Andrew Broz and Austin Cowart put the finishing touches on a travelling mural Feb. 28 to celebrate World Interfaith Harmony Week. (Photo by Travis Northern/Regional News)

TOWN OF GENEVA — When asked what “harmony” meant to them, members of an eighth-grade art class at Woods Elementary School compared the idea to harmony in music.

“All the voices come together and act like one,” student Zach Bauman said.

Bauman and his classmates spent the last week of February completing a painted mural that has traveled among a handful of local schools — and will eventually be shared with a worldwide audience.

The 19-foot-long mural depicts the concept of harmony, as interpreted by the youth of Walworth County.

The mural project was started by the International Little Artists Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in the town of Geneva.

The organization’s founder, Lucie Hake, said that when she visited area schools seeking contributions to the mural, students struggled to clearly define the concept of harmony.

“Maybe we don’t use the word enough,” Hake said.

The foundation will send images of the completed mural to schools in Middle Eastern and Asian countries, including Yemen, Iraq, India and Nepal. The mural itself will be sent as a gift to the United Nations.

As students of Woods School grabbed paint brushes to offer their contributions to the mural, the students conjured up a range of imagery to portray what harmony meant to them.

Austin Cowart spent his allotted time painting a volleyball.

“Sports are worldwide,” he said. “They’re universal.”

Jamie Carr painted a set of flowers.

“Flowers come in plenty of different colors,” she said. “People can face discrimination for their colors.”

The rest of the budding artists — Andrew Broz, Olivia Pohlmeier and Bennett Dobler — interpreted harmony as greetings in different languages, as well as images of people highlighted in a vibrant range of colors.

Other schools that contributed to the project were Reek Elementary School in Linn, the Agape House for Abused Girls in Walworth, and the Wisconsin School for the Deaf, Turtle Creek Elementary and St. Andrew Parish School, all in Delavan.

When it was done, the mural was a brightly colored collection of images of plants, hand prints, religious symbols, rainbows, musical notes and kind words, each to signify different interpretations of harmony.

The International Little Artists Foundation is an organization dedicated to connecting children from across the world through artistic expression. Founded in 2013, the organization now has connections in more than 30 countries.

The group is based in an office near the entrance to the Geneva National resort community, west of Lake Geneva.

Hake said the organization started the mural to celebrate World Interfaith Harmony Week, an annual celebration that runs from Feb. 1 to Feb. 7. The celebration was proclaimed by the United Nations in 2010, intended to promote harmony among people of different beliefs and cultures.

Hake said she believes that creating and appreciating art promotes harmony by giving children a chance to nurture their sense of compassion for others.

“Is compassion in us naturally? Or is it something we need to teach?” she said. “I think we are born with it, but I believe we are starting to lose it.”

Like many of the organization’s projects, the mural allows area students to connect with their counterparts around the world, and extend that compassion to people who need it, near or far.

“It’s a positive, inspirational work for others,” she said. “And it’s not only because our organization is connecting the world — it’s that we are connecting members of our own community.”