The University of Iowa

Balloon artist conveys importance of human right to art at UI International Day

March 12th, 2011

From University News Services

A world-famous balloon artist will use his creativity to convey the importance of the human right to art and culture to more than 300 middle and junior high students from eastern Iowa and western Illinois. The students will come together to learn about art, human rights, and how they can become better global citizens at the 15th Annual International Day with the theme “The Human Right to Arts and Culture” from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 15, at the Marriott Hotel and Conference Center in Coralville, Iowa.

The University of Iowa College of Education, in collaboration with UI International Programs and the Stanley Foundation, are the main sponsors for the conference, which is designed to educate students on topics related to local and global human rights issues.

Balloon artist Addi Somekh will be the keynote speaker at 9 a.m., and while a balloon artist might not sound like a typical expert on human rights, Somekh is no ordinary balloon guy, according to event organizers.

Somekh has traveled around the world and uses balloon art as a way to break down cultural barriers. He believes that “laughter sounds the same in every single language” and by making people happy one can literally communicate with anybody in the world. Somekh studied at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and then earned his master’s degree in human resource management at the New School for Social Research, New York, in 1996. He is a published author and has worked for some of the world’s most successful companies and entrepreneurs including Disney, Oprah Winfrey, and Martha Stewart.

His creativity and lively spirit along with the theme of bringing joy and art to everyone “will relate well to the student’s understanding of a universal aspect of being human,” says Greg Hamot, director of the UI Center for Human Rights and one of the co-coordinators of the event.

“International Day gives students an opportunity to learn about an aspect of human rights on an international scale so that they can see that they live in a world that has much in common, especially with regard to rights,” says Hamot, who is also a professor in the UI College of Education Department of Teaching and Learning and faculty sponsor for the event.

Hamot adds, “Sometimes, it is difficult to include this topic in the school curriculum due to curricular requirements, but at least on this day, these young people can explore a particular aspect of life as it exists in other parts of the world.”

The conference will allow students to break into small and large groups to facilitate discussion on human rights and how students can promote global citizenship. The UI Afro-Cuban Drum and Dance Ensemble will present a performance and workshop that features the music, drumming, and dance from the folkloric tradition of Cuba at 12:45 p.m. There will also be a presentation about the background information of the music, and the audience will participant in a variety of rhythm and dance activities.

Students from the following schools will attend: Columbus Community Middle School in Columbus Junction; Durant Middle School, Durant; Glenview Middle School in East Moline, Ill; West and Central Middle Schools in Muscatine; St. James School in Washington; Oelwein Middle School in Oelwein; Jesup Middle School in Jesup; McKinley, Franklin, Roosevelt, Harding, and Taft Middle Schools from Cedar Rapids Community School District; North Central Junior High in North Liberty with the Iowa City Community School District; and Washington Carver, Hover, Bunger, and Central Middle Schools from the Waterloo Community School District Student Voices Group.

Other International Day sponsors include the UI Office of Admissions, UI International Programs and UI Center for Human Rights, UI Belin-Blank Center in the UI College of Education, and the Coralville Marriott Hotel and Conference Center.

For more information, contact co-coordinators Hamot at 319-335-5382, or Teresa Garringer at 319-335-6289,