On May 2-May 4, IRIS held a special exhibit at the Des Moines Art Center that featured Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study student’s artwork. The exhibit allowed the students to artistically express their experiences with diversity in the United States.
The Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange program is sponsored by the United States Department of State and allows international students to share their culture and experiences with their host families and communities. Each student was selected for the YES program to represent the student’s country and promote international understanding, development, and peace during a yearlong stay with a host family. In August of 2013, 25 YES students from 17 countries arrived in Iowa through IRIS.
The IRIS staff presented each student with a blank canvas and asked them to create collages with the theme of diversity. Each piece features the word “diversity” in the student’s native language and reflects how his or her perspective of diversity has changed through the YES program and living in Iowa.
The Layers of diversity art exhibit was a successful event celebrating the creativity of the YES students and engaging visitors in important
conversations on diversity.
Throughout the weekend, visitors to the Art Center sought out the exhibit and learned about the Department of State YES program and IRIS. On Sunday, May 4th, over 40 students, host families, and community members attended the closing reception which included a tour and discussion on diversity within the permanent collection of art at the Des Moines Art Center, a viewing of the students’ artwork, and a video, highlighting each student, his/her artwork, comments about diversity, and thank you notes to the host families. The local KCCI news anchor Mollie Cooney reported on the story and interviewed Mariam (Egypt).