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Embracing Our Differences

LWRWC members participated in a Zoom Presentation by guest speaker Sarah Wertheimer, Executive Director of “Embracing Our Differences”, on Thursday, May 13, 2021. “Embracing Our Differences” is a not-for-profit organization, based in Sarasota, Florida.

“Embracing Our Differences” uses the power of art and education to expand consciousness and open the heart to celebrate the diversity of the human family. It accomplishes this through an annual, large-scale, juried art exhibition and a comprehensive series of educational initiatives, programs and resources designed for teachers and students. The year-round educational initiatives are a key component of their mission.

Educational Initiatives

Annual teacher workshops and retreats provide area educators with the skills, strategies, and resources to provide curricula and lesson plans relating to art appreciation, character building and diversity education. Unique classroom reading opportunities for early learning centers and kindergarten through third grade classrooms promote kindness though “bucket filling” and help students celebrate diversity are offered and other reading events during the year.

All volunteers read to students virtually during the 2020-2021 school year. According to Sarah, “over the years, the ‘Embracing Our Differences’ board has focused a lot of time and energy on education programs related to the exhibit, “We’ve grown from 1,200 students involved in the first year to more than 36,000 students in 2020. Our year-round education initiatives represent the most important aspect of our efforts – reaching and impacting the lives of thousands of area students and teachers. Since 2004, more than 436,000 students have participated.

The exhibit is our public face, but our education program is really at the heart of what we do. Our goal is to reach kids at a young age and really open up their minds and hearts; to teach them to always be kind and respectful to others.” Sarah Wertheimer, who was born and raised in Sarasota, oversees the creation and implementation of all programming and fiscal planning which has grown to impact more than 300,000 adults and children annually. Sarah is extremely passionate about exposing our community to the concepts of diversity, inclusion and helping create a world where individuality is celebrated.

Juried Exhibit

The genesis of Embracing Our Differences began when the Florida Holocaust Museum first approached the City of Sarasota to discuss bringing a one-time traveling art exhibit “Coexistence” to town. Originating in Jerusalem at Museum on the Seam, “Coexistence” traveled to numerous locales including Berlin, Zurich and South Africa before reaching Sarasota in March, 2004. Sarasota overwhelmingly embraced “Coexistence” which led to the formation of a board tasked with creating Sarasota’s own juried exhibit featuring diversity-focused artwork from around the world. As a result, “Embracing Our Differences” was born and debuted in 2005, sparking a Sarasota tradition that invites students, amateur and professional artists to submit pieces that express the celebration of diversity through art.

The 2021 “Embracing Our Differences” brightened Bayfront Park with messages of love, diversity and inclusion displayed on 50 billboard-sized banners throughout the park featuring artworks and quotations. The Exhibit was open to the public free of charge. In 2021, 254,280 people visited the exhibition, bringing the total amount of visitors to more than 3.55 million since 2004.

A 2021 Exhibit Encore is scheduled for May 20 – August 8, 2021, in Nathan Benderson Park, and will again  illuminate the theme “enriching lives through diversity and inclusion” while providing connections to Social-Emotional Learning, critical thinking and community building through student-driven exploration. Plan to visit and let “Embracing Our Differences” touch your heart!!