It’s a big round number anniversary for Embracing Our Differences.
And it’s a massive expansion of the chances for people to digest its message.
The 20th anniversary of the art advocacy project will kick off in January, and this year, the exhibit will take its act on the road.
First, it will be installed at Bayfront Park from Jan. 22 to March 12, and then it will also have a multi-week run at Butler Park in North Port and at State College of Florida.
The project has grown exponentially over the years, and Sarah Wertheimer, the executive director of Embracing Our Differences, said the call for artistic statements of diversity, respect and acceptance have fallen on receptive ears in the community.
“This universal message is a message of action," she says. "It’s coming together and not closing our eyes to people in need. Each one of us holds the key to open the door to kindness, compassion and understanding. Now, more than ever, it’s time to work
together to eliminate the barriers of prejudice that hold back the full range of human potential.
"Today, the message of Embracing our Differences—that of inclusion, respect and kindness—is more vital than ever.”
For the first year, Wertheimer says, Embracing Our Differences only received 124 submissions.
But this year, there were more than 13,000 submissions from more than 119 countries. Only 50 pieces of artwork will be selected to get the full billboard treatment, and then they’ll be displayed from mid-January all the way to late May.
Wertheimer says more than 370,000 visitors saw the exhibit last year, and she hopes more will see it in 2023.
Perhaps more impressive, though, is the reach Embracing Our Differences has exhibited in schools.
The first edition of Embracing Our Differences reached 1,200 students with its educational programming, but last year, that number jumped to over 52,000 students.
“All of these milestones,” she says, “Were achieved with the support of our extended family of educators, students, volunteers, board members, community foundations and donors.
“They have stayed with us every step of the way and made our journey possible.”