Exhibit aims to promote international coexistence

Hank Long

More than 100 people meandered through the Hennepin County Government Center plaza in Minneapolis on Tuesday to view giant-sized billboards with images symbolizing cultural understanding.

The 38 billboard-sized images were put up to kick off the city’s monthlong “Coexistence” exhibition, which organizers said aims to explore “the art of living together.”

“Coexistence is more than an idea; it involves changing the way we live and think,” said Raphie Etgar, curator of the outdoor art exhibition, which has toured throughout the world since 2001.

The images, which are mounted on 9-by-15 feet billboards, are from the Museum on the Seam in Jerusalem, Israel.

Under each image are quotes from various historical personalities such as Maya Angelou, John Lennon and Albert Einstein.

“This exhibition, which is making its way from city to city around the world, attempts to improve relations between people,” Etgar said.

The exhibit, which will be on display in Minneapolis until June 12, was brought to the city with the help of Stephen Feinstein, a University professor.

Feinstein, program director for the University’s Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, said he first saw “Coexistence” while completing research in Berlin in 2002.

Feinstein, who was at the ceremony, will participate in a downtown speaker series featuring University professors. The series will cover topics pertaining to cultural understanding and run today through May 11.

“(The project) has really brought the University into the city,” Feinstein said.

Lydia Howell, a West Bank resident who visited the exhibit, said the images were inspiring.

“I know this is something I am going to come back to more than once,” Howell said. “It’s a wonderful thing for the city and it’s a real gift that the University is giving back to the community.”

Feinstein said the event, presented by the College of Liberal Arts, should encourage students to discuss issues of coexistence and understanding.

“The task is to get students to come down here to try to see it and react to it,” Feinstein said. “We would like to have a continued dialogue on campus about what it means.”

Etgar said he got the idea for the exhibit because art is an international language that everyone can understand.

“We hope the language of images, forms, shapes and colors opens everybody’s eyes and hearts,” he said.