Longtime international art show, ‘Embracing Our Differences,’ through March 31

‘Embracing Our Differences’ art exhibition will debut in St. Petersburg on March 2 at Poynter Park in downtown St. Pete.  


ST. PETERSBURG – Poynter Park in downtown St. Pete near the University of South Florida will be filled with artwork on March 2. Artists will exhibit work on one theme: Embracing Our Differences. The exhibition is presented by a Sarasota-based organization of the same name, and the outdoor show will be up until March 31.

This year, which is the 21st year of the exhibition, is a full-circle moment of sorts, said Executive Director Sarah Wertheimer. Though this is the show’s first display in St. Petersburg, the idea for the organization was born in the Sunshine City.

“Originally, the Florida Holocaust Museum brought an exhibition to Florida from Jerusalem called ‘Coexistence.’ It came to St. Pete, Sarasota and Boca Raton. Sarasota decided it wanted to do an exhibition like it permanently.”

The photo above is from last year’s exhibit in Sarasota.

So, the Embracing Our Differences founders secured 501c3 status a year later and debuted their first exhibition. “The first year, we received 124 submissions from the region.”

It’s an understatement to say the endeavor has grown since its inception. Embracing Our Differences received 16,604 submissions this year from 125 countries and over 500 schools. Wertheimer said her team of five narrowed the submissions down to 50 works of art and 50 quotes for exhibition.

The organization’s mission is simple: to create a world where individuality is honored and valued and to provide a space where people can come together in kindness, respect, and inclusion. However, part of making the mission possible is ensuring accessibility to art.

“This is a different experience than when you go to a typical museum. Visitors get to interact with the artwork on a large scale and outdoors. We want it to be interactive and approachable.”

Wertheimer said that providing the exhibit in this format allows for the start of an essential and needed conversation.

“We love using art to teach about these abstract concepts like diversity and inclusion because everyone absorbs the art from their own experience. No one’s opinion or outlook is any less valid.”

The exhibition in Poynter Park is just the beginning of what Wertheimer hopes will be a long-lasting and fruitful relationship with St. Petersburg. The Embracing Our Differences organization has long wanted to partner with the city’s artist community and education system, and it’s making strides to do so.

The photo above is from last year’s exhibit in Sarasota.

“We’re really excited because of the richness of the visual arts community in St. Pete. We get to learn from the community and bring a different kind of artwork to the community.”

Wertheimer hopes local artists will get involved. The goal for the organization is to have the exhibition every year in St. Pete, and it wants as many St. Pete artists as possible to submit.

The organization is also heavily focused on ensuring students and educators have access to the exhibit. Free field trips with bus transportation included are available for any class or school interested in bringing students to see the art.

“First and foremost, we’re an education organization that presents art,” Wertheimer explained. “We use art to teach the youngest of our communities the values of kindness and respect.”

The photo above is from last year’s exhibit in Sarasota.

In addition to free access to the exhibition each year, Embracing Our Differences is working with Pinellas County Schools to create resources, tools and curriculum that educators can bring back to the classroom. Plans also include reading days at elementary schools, where volunteers come into classes to read books and then donate those books to the school. Wertheimer hopes these resources will be readily available and integrated into the country’s curriculum within the next few years.

Learn more about the exhibit at embracingourdifferences.org. Those who want to participate in a guided tour can sign up on Eventbrite. Teachers and administrators interested in learning more about field trips can do so on the Embracing Our Differences website under the “Education” tab.

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