Art for Darfur Kicks Off Its April Auction with a Preview Night

March 21, 2010  

By Hanna Nelson

“Art for Darfur” held its Preview Night on March 20 to showcase some of the art to be auctioned and displayed at its fourth annual auction in April.

This year, “Art for Darfur’s” theme is ‘great peacemakers’, and these don’t only include big-name people like Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and the Dali Lama—they also include fifth graders.

“Art for Darfur” paired up with the non-for-profits “Today Marks the Beginning” and “Big Thought” to present a project to L.L. Hotchkiss Elementary fifth graders. While at the school, they asked the students the question: “If you were a great peacemaker, what would you do for the people of Darfur?”

With this question in their heads, the students were given craft supplies to make shadow boxes of the things they would build to help Darfur’s citizens. They included schools, hospitals, and even a soccer field. Their art was displayed at the Preview Night.

Tiana Lightfoot Svendsen, co-director and founding member of “Art for Darfur”, believes that art is a great way to express non-violence.

She said that she’s passionate about ending genocide because it “crosses party lines and religion. Everyone wants to end genocide.”

Because the issue of genocide unifies people trying to fight it, they come together.

“It builds community—that’s my favorite part—that it brings people out and together,” Svendsen said.

There were many SMU students in the audience, all of whom had different reasons for their interest in Darfur and the ending of genocide.

Kellie Classen, a junior pre-med major, became interested in Darfur and the genocide when she decided she wanted to be a doctor in Doctor’s Without Borders.

“I wanted to be more culturally aware of the countries where I’ll be working. I couldn’t help but be interested in what’s going on,” Classen said.

Junior Kellie Spano became involved in “Art for Darfur” when she joined SMU’s Amnesty International, a partner of “Art for Darfur.”

Spano said the reason she’s most passionate about the genocide in Darfur is that it’s distant.

“It’s someone else’s tragedy. How can you not help?” she said.

Spano said when she sees the art for the event, she sees “the passion and time put into the art. It’s inspiring.”

Saturday’s event kicked off “Art for Darfur’s” programming for the April 17th event, which will be held in the Owens Fine Arts Center. Thanks to a grant from “Big Thought”, “Art for Darfur” was able to buy canvases to host the “Art for Darfur: Community Canvases” event.

On Sunday, March 28th, the group is hosting an event to allow people to create their own art promoting non-violence, which follows Svendsen’s idea of creating a community.

For more information on “Art for Darfur”, visit

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