The graffiti vandalism of Temple Beth Shalom has inspired area faith leaders to turn away from hate and instead turn to community.
In a productive reaction to the February desecration, the Faith Leaders and Leaders of Conscience are hosting an art contest dubbed “Celebrate Curiosity,” in an effort to build on solidarity, inclusion, advocacy, accountability and truth in the Eastern Washington and North Idaho region.
FLLC is a ministry of the Veradale United Church of Christ, but it is very much an interfaith gathering. Joining FLLC founder, the Rev. Gen Heywood at UCC, are Baptists, Sufis, Buddhists, Catholics, the Jewish community and people who don’t identify with any religion but want to help make the world a better place.
Retired physician Pam Silverstein, for example, who is Jewish, has been involved with FLLC since its inception. Silverstein said she felt violated when a lone perpetrator painted Swastikas on the temple earlier this year.
Silverstein said being part of community is a way to not let events such as this divide us.
Instead, the FLCC came together with the idea to host the poster contest, in which a winning entry could be printed and put on display. The contest is open to middle-schoolers, high-schoolers, college students and adults.
Judges are looking for a singular graphic, a color image, that can be put in the windows of businesses or homes, on social media, on signs, merchandise and other media to share the message that it is important to “Celebrate Curiosity.”
The winning artist will receive $150, and the winners in each of the three categories will receive $100 each.
Beyond the incident at the Jewish temple, the Rev. Heywood highlighted other area events that have inspired FLLC’s work to overcome separation and racism. Matt Shea’s “Biblical Basis for War,” and the Central Valley High School and University High School’s walkouts in response to the Parkland shootings, were among other events that called on the FLLC to localize and take action.
“If we’re going to move hearts, we can do better as a society,” Heywood said. “The bigotry doesn’t end. We can undo the system.
“I know that’s really hard, but systems are like computers and can be re-wired.”
Reinaldo Gil Zambrano, an art professor at Gonzaga University, who is originally from Venezuela, is among the FLLC art contest judges.
He said the artists will have the opportunity to showcase the reality of the contemporary world in which we live. He said he will be looking for honest, original work.
“Something with a soul,” he said, which will materialize the message.
Also judging is Jeffery Veregge, an award-winning artist and writer and a Native American who is from the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe. He will be donating a signed comic and poster to the winner.
Other judges include Ryann Louie, co-chair of Spokane Asian Pacific Islander Coalition and member of the Spectrum Center Task Force; and Charity Doyl, a member of the Hispanic Business Professional Association.
Retired ordained minister Kaye Hult became involved with FLLC through her work with the Fig Tree, a nonprofit publication and resource directory. Hult’s hope is these positive images will lift people into forging better communications without barriers.
“We need to get people really thinking about these issues,” Hult said.
Barb Miller, of the Silver Valley Community Resource Center in Kellogg, Idaho, is also involved with FLLC. The resource center, a nonprofit, has for 30 years led efforts to improve the quality of life for people in the Silver Valley and to fight for environmental justice. The nearby Bunker Hill Superfund site has created a host of problems including housing issues, homelessness, economic development and health problems, she said.
“Churches in Eastern Washington embrace our cause,” Miller said. “That’s why the poster contest is so exciting.”
She said she sees it as a wonderful opportunity for young people to build awareness of many issues, including the environment.
Sister Pat Millen of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia said the Rev. Heywood has done a good job bringing awareness to ecological issues. Involved with FLLC since its inception, Millen said the art contest is an opportunity to get youth involved with justice issues, in addition to giving them a project to work on while in the middle of a pandemic.
Heywood considers the FLLC like old-town criers of days past.
“When someone calls out for help, we help,” she said. “We use each other’s connections to support each other.”
Heywood hopes to partner with local art galleries to display the entries, as well as display a virtual gallery online.
To submit an entry and to receive the contest rules, email FLLConscience@gmail.com.
Entries for the poster contest are due by May 12, with the winners announced on June 10.
Linda Ball can be reached at email@example.com
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