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Art from the Heart has sweet goal in sight

Staff Writer

Published: Monday, February 4, 2013

Updated: Monday, February 4, 2013 15:02


KIMBER BATES/Courtesy Photo

Art for El Salvador, a project created by sisters Maria and Niah Howard, raises money to build a school in poverty- stricken El Salvador in their younger sister Sarah Howard’s name. The event will take place on Feb. 10 from 6-10 p.m. in the Maucker Union ballroom.

The story behind Art for El Salvador, the University of Northern Iowa organization responsible for the upcoming event Art from the Heart, is both moving and heartfelt.         Art from the Heart, which will be held from 6-10 p.m. on Feb. 10 in the Maucker Union Ballroom, is an art/variety show featuring the work and performances of a number of UNI students. Held in honor of her sister and love for the country of El Salvador, UNI student Maria Howard’s goal for the art/variety show is to give back to both.

Howard traveled to El Salvador for the first time in June of 2009 with her sister Niah Howard. After her return home, Maria Howard became committed to telling the stories of the people she had met there.

“We were exposed to the devastating poverty that is present throughout El Salvador. Our eyes were opened to a reality that we had previously not understood,” said Maria Howard. “We fell in love with the country and the people we met there. They had a spirit of genuineness, compassion and resilience that was simply unforgettable.”

In the summer of 2010, the Howard sisters began Art for El Salvador, along with their younger sister Sarah Howard. They began selling various artwork at their local farmer’s market, including decorated boxes made by Sarah Howard, who was 12 at the time and purchased all of the supplies with her own money.

The course of the project drastically changed on Aug. 16, 2010, when all three sisters were involved in a car accident that Sarah Howard did not survive. After taking a break from the farmer’s market in the summer of 2011, the two surviving Howard sisters came back in the winter of 2011 with a new and improved project idea. Their goal was to raise enough money to build a school in El Salvador, named La Escuela de Sarah Lana, in honor of their sister.

“She was a huge part of Art for El Salvador, as she was right by my side each and every week at the farmer’s market. Sarah was compassionate, loving and devoted to helping other people,” said Maria Howard.

After the success with the organization in their hometown of Dallas Center, Iowa, the Howard sisters brought Art for El Salvador with them to Cedar Falls when they became students at UNI.

Thanks to help from Denise Tallakson, instructor with the Department of Curriculum and Instruction in the College of Education, Art for El Salvador became a recognized student organization.

“I got to know Maria Howard last semester when she was a student in my course, Methods of Teaching Visual and Performing Arts Integration in the Elementary Classroom. When she introduced herself the first day, she mentioned that she had a charity called Art for El Salvador,” said Tallakson. “I asked her to tell us more about it and saw such a great connection between her mission and our class. We all decided to help. It added such a meaningful service opportunity to my course.”

Since then, the organization has been slowly expanding.

“I’ve watched it grow and change into something so much bigger than it was when it started, while still maintaining the core message of connecting people and serving others through art,” said Niah Howard.

The art show and sale will take place in Ballroom A from 6-10 p.m. Several students have given up their afternoons to create art for the sale, and artwork has also been donated by other individuals. Some art students will also be displaying their work.

The variety show, which will take place from 7-9 p.m., is hosted by UNI students and former classmates of the Howards in Dallas Center, Eddie and Charlie Broderick. This portion of the event will feature a traditional dance done by two people from the Hispanic Latino Student Union, three poets from the English department, an art student doing a performance art act, both a flute and violin solo as well as an appearance by the improv group Half-Masted.

“We have an amazing lineup of really talented people from UNI doing all different types of acts. It’s an opportunity for students to support other students and watch their friends and fellow classmates perform. We’ll have lots of cool handmade crafts and art for sale that our group has been working really hard to make,” said Niah Howard. “It’s going to be a really fun night and best of all, it’s for a great cause!”

One last opportunity to create something for the art show will be on Tuesday, Feb. 5 from 5-8 p.m. in the Schindler Education Center, room 121. Materials will be provided and everyone is welcome. The organization will also be tabling in the Union on Tuesday, Feb. 5 and Friday, Feb. 8.

For more information, search “Art from the Heart” on Facebook.


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