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The Writing's on the Wall, Inc.

About: The Writing’s on the Wall

by Hope Katz Gibbs
Founder and president
January 1993 to September 1995

There is the Great Wall of China, the Western Wall, The Berlin Wall, Mahabalipuram’s Animals Walls and Nelson Mandela’s Prison Walls. But what is a wall, after all?

It is a structure you can climb on, climb up, and tear down. Walls keep us safe—or trap us inside. A wall is a piece of a whole. The sides of a house, perhaps, or a metaphor for the structure of our life, our society, our world.

The Writing’s on the Wall is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping children know that walls are just things that can be moved — they just need to wish for it, and make it happen.

“I would wish for peace. That means there would never again be any war. And no one would ever be sad,” says Trend Hardman, 7.

We use art, photography and writing as the medium to teach and encourage children — especially those who are disadvantaged. So in 1993 the Writing’s on the Wall team began taking art supplies, cameras, photographers, journals and writers into underprivileged neighborhoods in Northern California, including:

• The Children’s Cultural Center After School Program, Marin City
• The Bayside/Martin Luther King Jr. School in Sausalito
• The Tenderloin After school Program in San Francisco
• First Exposures photography project in the Mission District.
• The Capital Children’s Museum in Washington, DC

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The book: Introduction [The Writing’s on the Wall]

by Hope Katz Gibbs
Founder and president
January 1993 to September 1995

One of the goals of the Writing’s on the Wall project was to create a book about what kids across America were thinking. Although that part of the project didn’t come to fruition (yet!) here is the beginning of what we have in mind.

INTRODUCTION

Look into the eyes of a child. What do you think they are thinking? Do you wonder how they feel about themselves? The environment? Their future?

The Writing’s on the Wall project teaches and encourages children to use art, photography and writing to express their thoughts and ideas.

This book documents our first two projects.

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The book: Wish for Kindness [The Writing’s on the Wall]

“I wish for peace. That means that there would never again be any war. And no one would ever be sad again. I’d also take all the pollution away by cleaning the water and not littering at all. I would make sure everyone recycles cans, newspapers and glass. And I’d wish for my mom to have no problems at work, and for my dad to have a better car.” — Trent H., age 7

“I want people to listen to each other. I don’t understand why everyone has to fight all of the time. Why can’t everyone put in an idea and then each person can talk about it. If someone disagreed, that would be okay. They could just talk about their ideaas and if hey didn’t find agreement they could agree to disagree. But they don’t have to have a war. That’s just a stupid way to handle a disagreement.” — Miles T., age 9

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The book: Wish for Peace [The Writing’s on the Wall]

Charon D. felt real life violence in August 1992 when their friend, a 6-year-old boy named Qa’id Walker of Marin City, was killed when a stray bullet hit him during the Marin City Festival. Here’s what they wish for:

“I wish for peace on earth. That means there would be no guns, no swords and basically no sharp objects. If I can be nice, so can everyone else. We should listen to what Martin Luther King said: that even if you have someone you should still love them. And when you get mad, hit a pillow, pull the stuffing out of a teddy bear. Just don’t pick up a gun. Be peaceful to yourself, and to everyone else.” — Charon D., age 10

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Our Projects: Capital Children’s Museum [The Writing's on the Wall]

The Writing’s on the Wall
Capital Children’s Museum in Washington, DC
October 1994 to April 1995
Photos by Jack Dunthitt

We were very excited to learn in the Fall of 1994 that the Capital Children’s Museum in Washington, DC was interested in having the Writing’s on the Wall project come east and be an interactive exhibit during it’s month-long support of the United Nations Season of “Peace, Friendship and Goodwill.”

The plan was for it to stay up for two weeks, but the exhibit proved so popular that the curators asked us to leave it there for six months. We were happy to comply and thoroughly enjoyed watching the kids faces — and viewing their writings, photos, and art — as they continuously mounted on the Wish House. Magic.

Following is the press release announcing the project’s arrival, and a thank you note from Robert Evans, director of special events at the Capital Children’s Museum.

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Our Projects: First Exposures photography project in the Mission District [The Writing's on the Wall]

The Writing’s on the Wall
First Exposures photography project, Mission District
July 1, 1994
Photos by Jane Grossenbacher

It was exciting to meet the Mission District kids who were already enrolled in a photography program at First Exposures, located in the funky Eye Gallery.

It provided a wonderful venue to spread out and create artwork to post on the Wish House, and Collette Sweeney, director, First Exposures/The Eye Gallery, expressed her gratitude for having us come in for the day to entertain the kids.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to show our students how they can express themselves not just through photography, but through art and writing as well,” Sweeney said. “It’s very powerful when you can combine the arts. Seeing their work posted on the Wish House was a real boost, too.”

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Our Projects: Tenderloin After school Program, San Francisco [The Writing's on the Wall]

The Writing’s on the Wall
Tenderloin After school Program, San Francisco
June 4, 1994
Photos by Ken Smith

Dozens of children attended this event in the heart of the poverty-stricken Tenderloin area in downtown San Francisco. Gun shots went off during about an hour into the festivities, but the kids didn’t seem to be disturbed.

“It’s pretty normal around here for them to hear shots sometime during the day,” says Sebene Selassie, co-director, Tenderloin After School Project.

Children, such as Elise Fincher, 9, stayed focused on the task at hand. On her brick she wrote:

“People have got to stop cutting down all the trees. I mean, the ones who are only doing it to make money. I can understand that, but come on. We need the trees so we can breathe. I also think people should not throw away their food. There are people who are hungry, you know. That’s why when I grow up I want to be a lawyer, so I can make people act better.”

Fincher and the other children were happy to share thoughts like these with the camera crews that arrived halfway through the event. They showed a snippet of the event on the evening news.

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Our Projects: The Bayside/Martin Luther King Jr. School in Sausalito [The Writing's on the Wall]

The Writing’s on the Wall
The Bayside/Martin Luther King Jr. School in Sausalito
Martin Luther King Jr. Day
January 17, 1994
Photos by Jane Grossenbacher

The second project was attended by about 15 children from the Boys and Girls Club. A reporter from the Marin Independent Journal joined us, which added to the excitment of the day.

Although the kids seemed joyful and full of energy, there was an undercurrent of sadness. Just weeks earlier, a friend of the children — 6-year-old Qa’id Walker-Teal — was killed by a stray bullet during a local festival.

The children were taking it hard, including Tatiana Williams, 10, who used her brick to write this message:

“If I could do anything, I’d say a speech. I’d tell everyone to be nice to each other. If you aren’t nice, you would go to jail. I mean, there is no need for people to get hurt.”

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Our Projects: The Children's Cultural Center of Marin [The Writing's on the Wall]

The Writing’s on the Wall
Children’s Cultural Center of Marin
November 11, 1993
Photos by Jane Grossenbacher

The first project was held on November 11, 1993 at the Marin County’s Children’s Cultural Center, a Montessori School founded in 1971 by Elice Webster. Children from a range of backgrounds came together to create colorful, imaginative bricks and hang them on the newly built Wish House. Our photographers, Jane Grossenbacher and Ken Smith, were on hand to help the kids work with Polaroid cameras and also to document the event. To our surprise, a reporter from the Marin Independent Journal showed up and an article about our maiden voyage appeared in the paper the next day (see below).

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The bricks: I wish for fairness [The Writing's on the Wall]

Wish and artwork by Kathryn, 11
Washington, DC
January 1995

“I wish all the PEOPLE in the WORLD didn’t let COLOR matter so much and that EVERYONE could be FRIENDS and TAKE CARE OF EACH OTHER and DO GOOD THINGS and I HAVE A DREAM …”

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The bricks: I wish for Mother Earth [The Writing's on the Wall]

Wish by Sean Hayman, 7
Marin County, CA
January 1993

“I think the world would be a better place if everyone lives on boats. I live on a boat. It’s really fun. you get to be on the water all the time. Of course, sometimes I get seasick, but it’s fun anyway.” — Sean Hayman, 7, Marin County, CA

Artwork by Katie S.
Washington, DC
March 7, 1995

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The bricks: I wish for fun [The Writing's on the Wall]

Wish by Ramsey Springer-Sutton
Marin County, CA
January 1993

“If I had three wishes, I’d jump on my bed. I’d be able to go into any store and get whatever I wanted without paying for it. And I would do away with all money. Instead of money, there would be a big machine that wouldn’t break or pollute; it would make everything we ever need. This machine would make homes for everyone with swimming pools. Because if you don’t have a home, you can die. Also, people could have any pet they wanted. And all their cages would stay clean.

Artwork by Cinde T.
Sausalito, CA
January 1993

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Drawing on their talents [Marin Independent Journal]

photo by Martin E. Klimek
Marin Independent Journal
Fri. November 12, 1993

Children demonstrate their creative talents as they decorate walls at the Children’s Cultural Center of Marin in Sausalito yesterday. “The Writing’s on the Wall” project, the brainchild of journalist Hope Katz, enables students to express their thoughts and feelings through art.

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Kids envision peace on Kind Day [Marin Independent Journal]

by Richard Halstead
Marin Independent Journal
Tues., January 18, 1994

It was anything-can-come-true day for a group of kids from Bayside/Martin Luther King School in Marin City yesterday, and 10-year-old Tatiana Williams knew exactly what she wanted: Peace on earth.

“My friend Qa’id, he got during a festival. He died in the hospital the next day. I was sad. That’s why there needs to be peace,” Williams said.

Qa’id Walker-Teal was the 6-year-old Marin City boy killed by a stray bullet during the Marin City Festival in August 1992. The killing remains unsolved.

Williams was among 15 children who gathered on Martin Luther King Day to participate in an arts program designed to build self-esteem. Other children also sounded a non-violent theme:

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Our Writing’s On the Wall [Fast Forward]

by David Khalili, Savannah Springer-Sutton, Harry Chapman, and Max Brownstein
Children’s Cultural Center
Fast Forward: The newspaper for kids / by kids
January 1994

This winter, kids at the Children’s Cultural Center in Sausalito got the chance to work with an organization called The Writing’s On the Wall and talked about what we could do to make the world a better place.

The project lasted most of the day. In the morning, we sat around a table with markers and paint and glitter and crayons. We each have to take some pictures with Ken Smith, who was shooting our portraits. He even let us use his photography equipment, which was very cool.

After a lunch break, we all sat in a circle and talked about our wishes and our thoughts. Everyone got a chance to say something. When we finished, each of us got a brick. We decorated the brick with our favorite wish or thought, then glued our bricks to the outside walls of a miniature house. On the inside of the house we got to draw some graffiti art on the walls.

View Entire Article to see what came out of the mouths of these babes.

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Wishes for the Future [Capital Children’s Museum]

Press release by Gillian Foster
Capital Children’s Museum
Oct. 5, 1994

For Immediate Release

Washington, DC — Children express their hopes, desires and dreams for a better future at Capital Children’s Museum from October 15th through October 23rd.

The “Writings on the Wall Program” will display its “Wish Upon a Wall” project at the Museum for 2 weekends in October in conjunction with the Museum’s month-long support of the United Nations Season of “Peace, Friendship and Goodwill.

This recently completed San Francisco project combines children’s art, photography and writing to produce “Wish Bricks” expressing children’s wishes. These bricks are attached to the walls of a portable “Wish House.

Visitors to the Children’s Museum will have the opportunity to create their own “Wish Bricks” on the theme of “Peace, Friendship and Goodwill,” which will then be incorporated into the Wish House. The Wish House will be on display at the Museum October 15, 16, 22, and 23rd from Noon to 4 PM. Capital Children’s Museum is located at 800 Third St., NE, Washington, DC.

See how the exhibit turned out: View entire article

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To our team [The Writing's on the Wall]

by Hope Katz Gibbs
Founder and president
January 1993 to September 1995

Nothing is ever accomplished without the work of many helping hands and caring hearts. The Writing’s on the Wall is the collaboration of dozens of people, and my gratitude goes out to each and every one for turning this idea that once was my master’s thesis into a working organization. — Hope

OUR TEAM

HOPE KATZ, president and founder
A journalist, poet and fiction writer, Hope has worked at The Miami Herald, New Miami magazine and the George Washington University before starting the Writing’s On the Wall in January 1993. She has won several writing awards from the Florida Magazine Association, and is listed in Who’s Who of American Business Women and International Who’s Who.

MICHAEL GIBBS, art director
Michael is a Washington, DC illustrator and designer who has created the logo, book and look for the project. His work appears regularly in The Washington Post, United Airlines’ magazine, Mid-Atlantic Country magazine, Teacher magazine & Education Weekly.

JEFF WHEELER, architect
Jeff is a San Francisco architect who designed the “Wish House,” on which the children’s art is displayed. The house is a freestanding, mobile structure that travels with the project.

PHOTOGRAPHERS:
Jane Grossenbacher, San Francisco, CA
Ken Smith, Marin County, CA
Jack Dunthitt, Washington, DC

CORPRORATE DONORS:
• Amity Press — rubber stamps
• Classic Printing — silkscreen T-shirts
• Fiskars Scissors
• Just Film — film, color processing
• The Lee Jean Company — T-shirts
• Marin Ceramics — clay, firing, glaze for artist / photographer / writer medals
• Office Depot — art and office supplies
• The Great Frame Up — frames, cardboard for wish bricks
• The Polaroid Foundation — cameras and film
• Yasutomo & Company — art supplies

SPONSORS:
• Patricia Edwards, art director, Marin City Fine Arts Project
• Bob Evans, special exhibits director, Capital Children’s Museum
• Rumu Sarkar, U.S. State Department, pro-bono legal services
• Judi Shills, coordinator Capital Children’s Museum
• Sebene Selassie, co-director, Tenderloin After School Project
• Collette Sweeney, director, First Exposures/The Eye Gallery
• Elisse Webster, director, Children’s Cultural Center
• Gerard Zack, Zack & Riggs, pro-bono accounting services

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More The Writing's on the Wall, Inc. Articles


"I get by with a little help from my friends," says Hope, who gives special thanks to:

• MICHAEL GIBBS, website illustration and design: www.michaelgibbs.com
• MAX KUKOY, website development: www.maxwebworks.com
• STEVE BARRETT, portrait of Hope on Bio page: www.stevebarrettphotography.com

Contact HOPE KATZ GIBBS by phone [703-346-6975] or email.

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