UN Ambassador for Art & Peace visits St. Joseph Catholic Academy

AMBASSADOR FOR ART & PEACE—World-renowned artist, Ibiyinka Olufemi Alao, artist and UN Ambassador for Art & Peace visited St. Joseph Catholic Academy, Springfield, on Sept. 18. A photo gallery of this event may be found HERE. (Photo by Bonnie Johnson/The Mirror)

Ibiyinka Alao, a Nigerian American artist, spent Sept. 18 at St. Joseph Catholic Academy (SJCA)! He led an hour-long assembly followed by painting lessons for all of the students. All youth, Pre-K-eighth grade, were able to paint their own works of art inspired by Ibiyinka. Alao was in town to launch his upcoming movie, “My Fireflies.” “My Fireflies” is a short animated feature of his work and an audio book that was screened at the Springfield Art Museum on Sept. 26.

From the Niger River Basin of West Africa to the Ozark Mountains, Alao is an artist who shines a light on art as a healing tool through painting, storytelling, writing, music, and film.

Alao works in schools, prisons, and juvenile detention centers, introducing art therapy to students and inmates. While at SJCA, Alao shared stories, performed musical selections, and discussed his artwork.

“I draw, paint, and write about whatever I’m able to find, feel, and sometimes understand,” he said. “I feel that it is healthier to look out at the world through a window than through a mirror. Otherwise, all you see is yourself and whatever is behind you.”

Students, staff, and faculty at SJCA sang and danced with Alao, who is the winner of the prestigious United Nations International Art Contest for his painting “Eternity in our Hearts,” part of which he made in the Ozarks. The work inspired the 2016 Scholastic “Kids Are Authors” Nonfiction Grand Prize winner Ibi’s Fireflies, written and illustrated by third grade students in Pennsylvania.

“We thank God for the gift of his visit to our school,” said Bonnie Johnson, principal at SJCA.

Upon his departure from the school, he left an autographed copy of the painting, “Eternity in our Hearts,” at SJCA.

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