April 15, 2002
'Messages of Hope, Peace, Love'
by Deborah Stone
Countless examples of humanitarianism and giving have come out of the 9-11 tragedy, as evidence of people's caring and compassion for others in need.
Local Eastsider Diane Brudnicki was in Europe when the terrorist attacks occurred and was unable to return to the States right away.
When she finally got back home, she was distraught and in no frame of mind to resume her art teaching duties at Legacy Cooperative Homeschool in Redmond.
"I felt at such a loss," explains Brudnicki. "I didn't feel ready to start teaching again, but I knew I needed to, so I resolved to do something with my students to help with the healing process and to give me something to focus on."
After speaking with her students, Brudnicki found that they were equally stunned by the events of 9-11 and very sad.
She saw that, like her, they too needed a way to heal, a way to cope with what had happened and a way to respond.
Out of Brudnicki's resolve and sense of purpose, grew a very special art project. Each of her 75 students, ages seven to 17, spent the next several months creating paintings with messages of hope, love, peace and friendship directed towards the children who lost their loved ones in the 9-11 attacks.
"I brainstormed with my students to get them thinking about the types of pictures that they could create that would comfort the children who had suffered such horrible losses," says Brudnicki. "Then I instructed them in the use of watercolor because there's a gentle quality to this type of medium and it seemed like the right choice to use to express such messages."
The paintings that resulted from Brudmicki's project included a wide variety of images including peaceful, serene landscapes, ocean scenes, flowers, children gazing at a sunset and teddy bears comforting one another.
She comments, "I was amazed at how the kids put so much heart and soul into their work, not to mention the number of hours they dedicated to the project. They also handled the watercolors so well, even those who were new to the medium. Their work has such meaning to it and the messages come through loud and clear. Some kids also wrote text and poems to go along with their paintings."
Brudnicki intended on giving the paintings to the children of 9-11 victims and contacted the local Red Cross office to get assistance in achieving this goal.
When staffers saw the work, they were moved to tears and mentioned that it would be a wonderful idea to put the paintings together in a book. Actually Brudnicki and several of the parents of her students had thought along these same lines.
The students were so excited about the idea that they promptly went out to pre sell four hundred copies of the proposed book, raising $8,000, to help cover the printing costs.
Brudnicki donated her year's salary to cover the rest of the costs and found a company in Slovakia to be the publisher.
To date, 2,000 copies have been printed of the book, titled "Messages of Hope, Peace and Love."
Later this month, 12 students from Legacy and five adults, including Brudnicki, will travel to New York City to deliver the original paintings to the fire commissioner of NYC who will then give them to children of firefighters who perished in the 9-11 tragedy.
The group will also meet with the WTC United Family Group, comprised of survivors and family members of 9-11 victims, and attend a candlelight vigil held by the Attorney General of NYC for victims of violent crime.
According to Brudnicki, 800 books have already been donated to the WTC United Family Group and 500 others have been given to people across the country who experienced losses from the 9-11 tragedy.
"This project took on a life of itself," comments Brudnicki, "and it's wonderful how the books are now going everywhere around the U.S. It's been so empowering for my students to see that they can make a difference if they put their hearts into it."
On May 11, Brudnicki and several of her students will be at the Barnes and Noble in Woodinville with copies of the book (available for purchase at $22 each, including tax).
Prior to this date, copies can be purchased through Diane Brudnicki, by calling (425) 844-2477.