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The Star-Ledger


Kids Vent Island's Frustrations In Art


November 29, 2001
Copyright © 2001
The Star-Ledger. All Rights Reserved.

In crayon, Magic Marker, pencil and paints, the story of Vieques - a Puerto Rican island used as a U.S. Navy training ground - can be seen through the eyes of children.

The traveling exhibit, "Queremos Paz Para Vieques /We Want Peace for Vieques ," has landed in Newark with the help of Councilman-at-large Luis Quintana and Quest Youth Services of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark.

On the fourth floor of the Newark Public Library, 35 pictures make a statement. The library held a reception for the exhibit Tuesday night. Dancing and poetry introduced the exhibit to the public.

The island has been used for bombing exercises for six decades despite international protests that they harm the environment and health of residents.

Many politicians and celebrities have taken up the cause of Vieques since 1999, when two stray bombs killed a civilian guard.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, the New York civil rights activist, spent 90 days in jail for his role in protest. Actor Edward James Olmos, environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and Jacqueline Jackson, Rev. Jesse Jackson's wife, also were jailed.

Residents have voted to immediately end the bombing, but President George Bush has said the Navy will pull out in 2003.

"We hope this exhibit will show that the sentiments on the island are not simply those of politicos and malcontents," Quintana said. "The families and their children are keenly aware of their situation, and the children speak on it through their school art."

The original 100-picture exhibit began as a class assignment at Eugenio Maria de Hostos Middle School in Puerto Rico . Two years ago, art teacher Glorimar Ojeda Cruz decided to allow her students to put their frustrations about the bombings on paper.

According to a history of the exhibit, Cruz was so moved by the students' works that she invited other schools to participate so they could create an exhibit. Playa Grande Middle School in Puerto Rico , led by art teacher Ibis Cintron Diaz, responded.

"It started out as a very local thing," said Ingrid Betancourt, supervising librarian of community services at the Newark library.

Soon, the exhibit was traveling around Puerto Rico and then landed at Museo la Casa de Don Pedro in Chicago.

Daisy Perez, of Quest, heard about the exhibit and shared the information with Quintana and the library, Betancourt said.

The library decided to make it part of the Hispanic Heritage event that kicked off in September. But the Sept. 11 tragedy and a lack of space in the library put snags in the plan, she said.

Only 75 pieces trickled into the Newark Public Library. "Not all of the pieces got to us on time," Betancourt said.

Once the pieces arrived, there was no room because other Hispanic-related exhibits were already being displayed. The other 35 or so pictures were sent to the Center for Latino Arts and Culture at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, Betancourt said.

The center will hold a reception for its half of the exhibit Dec. 11.

The exhibit at the Newark Public Library is displayed on the fourth floor during regular library hours: 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday, Friday and Saturday. The library is closed on Sundays.

The exhibit will end mid-December, Betancourt said.

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