Art, a Passport to Learning About World Citizenship

“Art is the right context for educating about the experience of being a citizen of the world,” says Phil Cantor, founder of the World Citizens’ Café in Framingham, Massachusetts.

The Café’s monthly gatherings at the city’s Amazing Things Arts Center offer a welcoming atmosphere in which people from diverse backgrounds can interact and celebrate the oneness of humanity.

In April, the Café, in collaboration with Artists Building Capacity as World Citizens, hosted the workshop “Passports for Peace” by artist Jeannie Hunt with the goal of making art a means of fostering fellowship and elevating the tone of discussion about unity. The group of 14 participants ranged in age from 10 to 70 and featured cultural connections with Australia, Brazil, China, France, Hungary, Iran, Israel, Japan, Norway, Pakistan, Romania, Turkey, and the United States.

Participants began by generating a list of the principles, values, attitudes, and behaviors that contribute to world citizenship. They then each created a personal “Passport to Peace”. Facilitator Jeannie Hunt supplied a variety of materials with which they could create passport contents in a collage-like way, or draw their own in a series of drawing exercises. They were also invited to design a “moral compass” for their passport using a compass rose and small virtues tickets from which they could choose those on which they would like to focus.

In the course of the day’s activity, participants explored themes of oneness, unity in diversity, gender equality, and justice by reflecting together on the questions:

1. What would it look like if this principle were fully developed in the world?
2. What would have to change to get us there?

A fifth topic, service and action, was intended as “homework”, i.e. what kinds of new behaviors participants could practice in the future, based on their learning in the experience of the workshop.

“Arts-based activity such as this opens both our minds and our hearts to the implications of world citizenship,” said World Citizens’ Café’s Phil Cantor. “I also discovered how wonderful it is to sit and make things together. Things come up in conversation that would not otherwise come up. One woman spoke at length about her family in the most natural way as she worked with her hands in an intimate setting of people—previously unknown to her.”

Another participant, who is also an art therapist, expressed appreciation for how the workshop’s structured approach was able to reach those from a wide range of ages and backgrounds.

Artist and workshop presenter Jeannie Hunt of Northampton, MA, offers bookmaking workshops for children, teachers, and artists in such settings as library programs, classroom visits, and artist-in-residence and community-arts projects. A Creative Teaching Partner with the Massachusetts Cultural Council, she also works in her local community in the Interfaith Arts Project, promoting the arts as a way of building bridges between people of diverse faith traditions.