“Something to Celebrate”– a New Book! Featuring Creative Connections’ Student Artwork

Jenn Kirst holding the book

Jenn Kirst holding the book

As a former graduate intern with Creative Connections, Jennifer Kirst gained a deeper appreciation for cultural education that ultimately became her inspiration to pursue a teaching career and to teach in an international setting. As part of her certification for her Masters of Science in Education (M. S. Ed.) Early Childhood and Childhood Education at Bank Street Graduate School in New York, Kirst needed to complete a Master’s Project. She immediately thought back to the wonderful student produced artwork she had seen in the Creative Connections’ art archive and decided to write a children’s book.

Titled Something to Celebrate, the book uses artwork created  by students participating in Creative Connections’ ArtLink programs to showcase celebrations around the world. Allowing the artwork to do most of the talking, Kirst highlights various aspects of celebrations that take place around the world.

In a recent interview with Kirst she shared the following about her Master’s Project.



What was your motivation behind writing the book?

“The aim of my book is to highlight the fact that despite the apparent differences one may see between cultures, there are basic elements, experiences and values that all cultures share. To do this, my book takes the concept of celebrations and explores how similar they actually are to the world’s many other celebrations, regardless of where they take place.”

Countries Represented

Countries Represented

Could you explain a little about the process of picking the theme and choosing the art pieces.

“When I first began the process of writing my book, I really had no idea what the theme or concept was going to be. It wasn’t until I took some time to thumb through the art archives at Creative Connections that things started to fall into place and ideas emerged.

The thing that inspired me most about the art contained in Creative Connections’ collection is the impact of each individual piece. On the surface, each piece enables viewers the opportunity to glance into the artist’s world and reveal a moment that is relevant to a particular aspect of the artist’s culture, such as their style of dress, type of home, typical foods, and what the surrounding environment looks.With every piece of art I looked at I saw something I liked but ultimately decided to narrow my selections based on the overall ‘richness’ of the background information, which helped to distill the theme of celebrations. With a list of artwork that I thought clearly depicted an important celebration in the artist’s life, I narrowed the celebrations down further to ones that appeared common in many cultures. Within my collection of art I found many examples of birthdays, weddings, new years and national holidays.” 

jenn book 4_Page_2

Artist descriptions of featured artwork

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Back Cover

Back Cover

Is there any one piece that stands out to you the most?                                                                           

“I love all the artwork contained in my book, but if I had to pick one that really stands out to me it would be the piece depicted on the back cover. Aside from being a beautiful and peaceful scene of a bonfire, it is really what the artists say about their work that I love. Their message is that of tolerance, but what is truly inspiring is that they understand that tolerance stems from an understanding of oneself. It is difficult to appreciate the values and customs of someone else unless you recognize your own values and the roots of those values. Once you can see this, you are open to understanding differences and appreciate how these differences may make sense in the context of another culture.”






Nepali Marriage by Shanti, age 12 from Nepal

Nepali Marriage by Shanti, age 12 from Nepal

What do you hope to do with the book now?

“I would love to find a way to share my book with teachers in the hopes that they can use it as a tool for diving deeper into a discussion or curriculum unit about culture. When I began working on my Master’s project I was not sure where my idea would go and was honestly thinking about it as part of the process for finishing my degree. Little did I know just how rewarding and fulfilling my final product would be.

After my book was complete, I had the opportunity to meet with a group of third grade students at the international school where I was working. Together we spent over an hour reading the book and discussing the artwork. A lot of the students were interested in learning where the artwork came from but were even more excited to find similarities within the details of the artwork that they could relate to in their own cultures. I was so thrilled to see how involved and interested everyone was! It was amazing to hear the connections they were making. For example, my book contains a piece depicting a wedding ceremony in Nepal. One child from India said how in her culture the bride and groom also exchange necklaces made from flowers just like in the Nepalese piece. This then prompted a student from Pakistan to join in and the discussion soon went to a deeper level where the children began recognizing that Nepal, India and Pakistan all boarder each other and so it makes sense that some of their customs would be similar.”

“I came away from this experience very humbled and for the first time recognized the potential my book could have as an educational resource and am excited to work with Creative Connections to see what possibilities there are for sharing the book with teachers and educators.”

By Elizabeth Kirst

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