MORGANTOWN—Once every hour, someone is severely injured or killed by landmines left behind from wars long-since passed.
Small enough to fit in his pocket, Perry Baltimore, president and executive director of the Marshall Legacy Institute, held one of these very landmines in the palm of his hand.
“Every hour, somebody will be losing a life or limb to an insidious killer like this,” he said.
This is the issue Proud Students Against Landmines and Cluster Bombs, or PSALM, participants are bringing awareness to through the annual social justice art project.
Through this year’s exhibit at the Monongalia Arts Center, participants are shining a light on the impacts of these weapons left active around the world.
The organization was founded in 1999 by students of St. Francis Central Catholic School. It has since given students in 3-8 grade the opportunity to raise awareness and offer humanitarian assistance.
“We always think that we’re hoping our children will be leaders of the future,” said Nora Sheets, PSALM coordinator. “But I see leaders of today.”
Through this year’s theme, The Light Within, participants created art centered around light through candles. Each piece is intended to show the importance of eradicating landmines and cluster bombs, assisting survivors and clearing affected areas.
Nicole Lin, a former PSALM participant, decided to submit work to this year’s event despite having finished her time at St. Francis. She initially joined in seventh grade because she enjoyed creating art, but quickly realized the importance of the organization’s mission.
“That got me more motivated,” Lin said. “That’s why I continue doing it.”
Lin’s piece is painted red and blue, intended to portray the flag of Laos. According to the Legacies of War organization, Laos is the most heavily bombed country per capita in history. Today, about one-third of the nation remains littered with about 80 million unexploded bombs.
Surrounding a white mask in the center of her painting are article clippings she created to provide information around the impacts these landmines have caused.
“I tried to make it sort of abstract to symbolize the mess that goes on because of the bombings that happen and the lives that get disrupted,” she said.
Elizabeth Bolling, an eighth grader at St. Francis, has been an active member of PSALM since the third grade. For one of her pieces, she decided to create artwork symbolizing Zimbabwe by using the colors of the country’s flag—green, gold, red and black.
“I just think it’s a really good organization to help out people all over the world,” Bolling said. “Even though it isn’t [happening] here in West Virginia, we should still help out.”
Jocelyn Nolan, a seventh grader at St. Francis, has been part of the program for five years. Nolan has always enjoyed making art and has enjoyed learning more about the harm landmines and cluster bombs have caused.
“Were not just kids, we can be so much more than that,” Nolan said. “I’m excited to see people donate and buy paintings and raise money for the cause.”
Sheets said the organization first formed when Vietnam Veteran Dr. Larry Schwab spoke with students about his experience in the war. Sheets saw how his stories impacted students and decided to form the organization.
PSALM has since been recognized by the International Bureau of Peace in Geneva, Switzerland and the National Catholic Education Association.
As someone who has seen destruction landmines and cluster bombs have had on human lives firsthand, Schwab said he recognizes the importance of an organization like PSALM.
“There’s nothing like this in the country,” Schwab said. “It’s a way to instruct, to teach, to demonstrate human rights and equality.”
Artwork will be on display until May 17 in the Benedum Gallery and can be purchased for a donation. Additional questions can be directed to the Monongalia Arts Center via email at email@example.com or phone at 304-292-3325.