U.S., Japanese children's holiday art brings two communities together
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Japanese and U.S. people cast their votes for their favorite holiday murals on display Dec. 22 on Park Avenue outside Kadena Air Base, Japan.
The murals were for the 2013 Okinawa City Japan-US Kids Holiday Art Fest painted by 12 groups of children from Kadena, Bob Hope, and Stearley Heights Elementary Schools, Amelia Earhart Intermediate School, and Okinawa City schools.
The first-place winners by one vote were Amelia Earhart Intermediate School art team from Kadena. Second place went to both Bob Hope Elementary School from Kadena and Moromi Elementary School from Okinawa City.
"This event's theme is 'Children's smiles through art make the community lively,'" said Nobuo Higa, president of Beautiful Community Project Network. "I hope children from Kadena Air Base and our community will learn from one another, deepening understanding for culture and history of the two and nurturing an international perspective."
Higa worked with the Kadena Top 3's Okinawa Outreach committee, as well as several organizations on and off base to put this event together. Okinawa Outreach, a group focused on strengthening relationships between local Okinawans and armed forces members and their families, provided both volunteers and support in coordinating the event.
"What is special about this moment today is we have the opportunity to share these things between our two communities," said Tech. Sgt. Steven Whitley, 18th Maintenance Operations Squadron NCO in charge of maintenance management analysis and member of Okinawa Outreach. "What better way to do that than through our children and the wonderful medium of art."
Higa and other Japanese representatives presented the award to the U.S. winning teams and Col. Jeffrey Ullmann, the 18th Mission Support Group commander, presented the award to the Japanese team.
"The holiday season is a time to gather together with our families and friends to celebrate the religious holidays, the end of one year and the beginning of another," said Ullmann. "It is traditional to decorate our homes and workplaces for the season, and to share holiday delicacies with one another. All of our student artists took on the challenge of capturing that sense of tradition and celebration in unique, artistic ways. It is amazing how well each team captured the holiday spirit in their paintings."
Several representatives from Okinawa City were present, such as Vice Mayor Yoshinori Shimabukuro and City Assembly Speaker Katsue Yonamine. Shimabukuro said he hoped this event would be an initiation to foster a more active exchange between Kadena Air Base and Okinawa City.