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On Feb. 17, ArtSpace Charter School kicked off its fifth annual Middle School Art Competition during Random Acts of Kindness Week. Students in grades 6-8 were challenged to create a work of art inspired by the concept of diversity. The work is on exhibit at The Red House Studios & Gallery, 310 W. State St., Black Mountain, through the end of May.

The competition was an initiative of ArtSpace’s school-wide bully-prevention program, PULSE (Promoting Understanding, Love, Safety and Empathy). The goal at ArtSpace has been to shift the focus from the negative (what not to do), to the positive as it relates to treating others with kindness and respect. The school’s entire community is encouraged to engage in activities that promote those concepts.

The arts are, of course, a magnificent vehicle for exploring ideas and influencing culture. Previous themes for the project included peace, kindness, unity and compassion. This year, the school encouraged students to contemplate why it is important to celebrate diversity and how people’s differences strengthen their community. The artwork is a reflection of the students’ unique perspectives.

A grant from DonorsChoose.org provided professional-grade materials for the competition. Student participation was voluntary, and the work was completed at home. Entries were judged anonymously with a rubric that rated three primary areas - expression of theme, technical skill and originality.

Local artists as well as select school staff served as judges.

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