Art exchange bridges cultures

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The fact that Frederickson Elementary School art teacher Janis Lindley was able to coordinate an art exchange between her own students and a classroom in Indonesia is impressive enough. The project looks downright heroic when you learn that Lindley was dealt the most devastating health news possible just 24 hours before she was set to fly to Indonesia.

Lindley is truly a global citizen. She’s lived and taught in India, Nepal, and South Korea during her long career in education. So nobody was shocked when she began planning an ambitious art exchange between her third- and fourth-grade students and a group of children in Indonesia.

“We live in such a global world now and it’s such a great way for kids to connect and see how art can teach us about the world and different beliefs and cultures,” she said.

The original plan was for Lindley to travel to Indonesia to personally bring her students’ artwork and teach the local children about American art and culture.

And then her life changed forever.

The day before her flight, Lindley was diagnosed with a rare form of advanced cancer. It didn’t look good, and in December she began planning her funeral. That’s when something special happened.

After four months of intense treatment at Seattle’s Cancer Care Alliance, doctors can no longer find any traces of the disease in Lindley’s body.

She was able to return to work in time to continue the art exchange, only this time it was done through the mail and online.

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Each of her students created unique pieces of art featuring images that represent life in America. She sent the art off to Indonesia, and just this past week her class received the art created by the Indonesian students.

Lindley is planning on retiring after next year, but she hopes her art exchange can continue and become a tradition at Frederickson or any other school that wants to explore different cultures.

“I’m so happy that it still worked out,” she said. “(Not being able to travel to Indonesia) actually makes it more accessible for other teachers. It makes it reproducible when they see they can use the internet, they can use mail, they can use photographs.”

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