This past fall semester, the Longhorn Center for Community Engagement reported that Dr. Kara Hallmark’s service-learning visual arts class displayed almost 10,000 artificial clay bones on UT’s South Mall to raise awareness about mass atrocities around the globe. This class was a part of the nationally recognized One Million Bones (www.onemillionbones.org) project created by artist Naomi Natale and intended to combine education, hands-on art making, and public installations to raise awareness throughout the United States.
The UT event served as a mini-installation, or one part of the One Million Bones’ efforts to raise awareness as they prepare for the final art installation in Washington D.C. Since then, efforts led by Dr. Hallmark and her teaching assistant, Matthew Remington, have resulted in students creating more than 11,000 clay bones to contribute to the Washington DC installation on the National Mall from June 8-10th, 2013. The art installation will be accompanied with a ceremony, interactive educational activities, a candlelight vigil, and an “Advocacy Day” for volunteers to urge members of Congress to address genocide and ongoing conflict around the world.
Remington will travel to Washington D.C. to represent UT Austin. As part of the service-learning class, Remington and Dr. Hallmark supported students as they engaged in making clay bones, organized bone-making events, and prepared for the final installation. When asked about his experience working with students on this project, he said “seeing them engage with the ideas and concepts, challenging and motivating each other, was truly rewarding.”
Dr. Hallmark describes how the students connected their learning with hands-on art by making bones of clay representing the presence of healing and a better future. As they made the bones and planned the installation, “[t]he students learned about global genocide and taught each other about the atrocities as well. They taught their families and their friends.”
Remington watched the students learn and grow throughout the experience. He also credits this service-learning class with changing student perceptions. “Students realize the cathartic potential of art, a powerful and peaceful means of making the world a better place,” he says.
Remington says that the One Million Bones project has been an integral part of his graduate school experience. As a tribute to these efforts, he received a 2013 UT Tower Award for Honorable Mention award for Outstanding Service-Learning Staff. After being honored, Remington reflected on the meaning of his participation in the final national art installation on the National Mall in Washington DC. It is “the punctuation to these efforts. I am constantly amazed by the sense of accomplishment produced by my small efforts. The ceremony will conclude the last two years of work, but it will also mark the beginning of new efforts.”