Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

September 27, 2013

Touching the heart

Local students' works of art take a stand on bullying

BY JOE OLENICK joe.olenick@lockportjournal.com
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — The works may vary in medium but their purpose is the same. Area students are using art to take a stand against bullying.

This weekend at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, visitors can take a look at work by 500 students from eight school districts – including Starpoint and Lockport City Schools – as part of the “Healing Hearts: From Hurt to Hope” exhibit. The collaborative student show, which has a closing reception at 2 p.m. Saturday, runs until Sunday.

Starpoint teachers Kelly Tomasello and Amanda Alvarez, who were instrumental in setting up Healing Hearts, shared the story of the exhibit with Board of Education members on Monday.

Starpoint students made up most of the exhibited work, Tomasello said. Many drew on personal experience, sharing their feelings on how bullying affected them or someone they knew.

“We decided to give a students a voice to create this amazing art show,” she said.

As part of the show, Thursday a special anti-bullying awareness presentation was held in the Albright-Knox auditorium. It included a presentation on acceptance by Tim and Tracy Rodemeyer, the parents of Jamey Rodemeyer, a freshman at Williamsville North High School who committed suicide two years ago this week as a result of constant bullying. Rodemeyer was known for his activism against homophobia and his videos on YouTube to help victims of bullying.

Thursday’s events included a choral performance by City Honors students, led by music teacher James Sharrat; the screening of a short film created by Williamsville North High School students, presented by teacher Brad Curcio; and a performance of classical scenes with an anti-bullying theme by Melissa Naylor’s students from Starpoint Middle School. 

Last year, Kelly and her husband Rich Tomasello both came home a little worn out after a long day. While talking about their day, the couple realized they both started similar bullying projects that day. They were teaching their students about Rodemeyer.

“We were both teaching about the same thing and introducing it the same way,” Tomasello said in a May interview with the Union-Sun & Journal.

Tomasello said it was decided a collaborative art show would be held, as the show would be a way for students to share their stories and thoughts on bullying.

The work has affected students and teachers alike. Alvarez said Monday she shared with her class her fear of her son being bullied when he starts school in a couple of years.

One of Alvarez’s students came up to her and shared how she was picked on at the young age and has continued to be bullied. Alvarez and the student talked, afterwards the student used her experiences in creating one of the paper mache hearts Starpoint Middle School students made for the Healing Hearts show. The hearts vary in size and appearance, but almost all of the hearts are black.

There are some items that appear on or next to the hearts, such as Band-aids or tape measures. Words are seen with the hearts, like “hopeless,” “different” or “hurt.” But there’s also “hope,” “beautiful” and “love.”

Alvarez said that student has gotten past the pain and walks with her head up.

”I was very touched and proud of her for having the courage to face this,” Alvarez said. “To really put herself out there like that told me that she felt safe and confident in moving on and facing her fears and her hurt.”

Healing Hearts: From Hurt to Hope • Closing reception: 2 until 4:30 p.m. Saturday at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, 1285 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo • Pieces will be on display until Monday

Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241 or follow him on Twitter @joeolenick.