You probably know Embracing Our Differences' signature event, which transforms downtown Sarasota's Bayfront Park into an outdoor art gallery every year. The billboards marry art and prose to promote a message of kindness and inclusion, and anyone can submit. To mark the organization's 20th anniversary, the exhibit will also travel to North Port and Bradenton this year.
Embracing Our Differences received 13,733 entries from 119 countries and 45 states this year. (By comparison, when it first launched in 2004, it received only 124.) Selected art pieces are accompanied by a selected quote, creating thought-provoking work that invites discussion and appeals to the best of humanity. This year's theme is "Embracing Kindness."
Since the exhibit's start, students have been invited every year to see the images, and its annual visitor attendance has quadrupled. Fewer than 100,000 people attended the first exhibit; last year's drew almost 400,000.
Here are this year's winners:
The "Best-in-Show Adult" artwork award went to Whittney de Araújo, from Recife, Brazil, for We Are All Pearls.
Alexis Lee, a 10th grade student at Icon Art Academy in Irvine, California, won the "Best-in-Show Student" award for Stretching Beauty.
Alexis Morrell of Wolcott, Connecticut, won "Best-in-Show Adult" for her inspirational quotation, “It takes more courage to speak in a silent room than to become another voice in a crowd.”
The award for the "Best-in-Show Student" inspirational quotation was given to Hartley Livesey, a fifth-grade student at The Out-of-Door Academy, for, “Always remember you are braver than you think and stronger than you believe.”
“People’s Choice” winners will be chosen by visitors to the exhibit.
Adult winners each receive $2,000, while student winners receive $2,000, which they split with their school’s art or English program. Check out some past winners here.
The winning quotations and art will be showcased Jan. 18-March 12 in Sarasota’s Bayfront Park; March 22-April 19 at Butler Park in North Port; and April 26-May 29 at State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota. For more information, call (941) 404-5710 or click here.