Since 2004, Embracing Our Differences has used the power of art and prose to promote diversity. One way we accomplish this is through our annual international art exhibition in Sarasota’s Bayfront Park. The juried exhibit consists of 45 billboard-sized works of art, each accompanied by an inspirational quote.
The winning artworks combine a deep understanding of both medium and message. Awards are given for "Best-in-Show Adult," "Best-in-Show Student," and "People's Choice" categories, with the last chosen by visitors to the exhibit. Adult winners each receive $1,000; students receive $1,000 to be directed to their school’s art program. The statements accompanying each artwork are also vital and provide insight into our common humanity—as well as the differences that make us all unique. In 2017, 212,000 people visited the exhibition—bringing the total amount of visitors to 2.5 million since 2004.
This year, as we celebrate our 15th anniversary, the response to the call for artwork and inspirational quotes was impressive, with 8,325 entries pouring in from 98 countries. Students from 227 schools around the world submitted artwork or quotes to the juried exhibit and 54 of this year’s winners were students. In honor of EOD’s 15th anniversary, 15 of the pieces on display represent a special collection of past artworks. The winning quotes and art are showcased in our 15th-anniversary exhibit, April 4 to June 1.
In 2019, the exhibit will be on display in Island Park, January 19 through March 14.
Embracing Our Differences’ annual outdoor exhibit is at the heart of a year-round program of activities designed to use art as a catalyst to create awareness and promote diversity. Also crucial to our mission are our ongoing education initiatives. Presented in partnership with the regional school district and nationally recognized educators, these programs positively impact the lives of thousands of area teachers and students every year. These include workshops and retreats that provide diversity curricula for area educators, free bus transportation for students and teachers to visit cultural venues, and student docent programs in high schools.
With more than 780 teachers and 42,000 students participating in the organization’s exhibit and educational programs in 2017 alone, Embracing Our Differences continues to lead as one of the largest education programs in southwest Florida.