Foreign Exchange Students Showcase Art, Celebrate Diversity

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DES MOINES, Iowa - If you find yourself at Zanzibar's Coffee Adventure, at 2723 Ingersoll Avenue, between now and May 17, you'll find a wall of colorful portraits, and the 30 students who painted them - who represent 19 different countries - are hoping you'll want to own one.

The Iowa Resource for International Service, or IRIS, helps facilitate foreign exchange programs across the state each year. This year, it's helped place 30 students in host homes across Iowa, and it's decided to try something new in the form of a fundraiser.

"Students were given a canvas in December, and we just asked them to go hog-wild with it, basically no rules," said Mary Hallman of IRIS. "They were asked to do a piece representing their definition of diversity, and we wanted it to capture their experience here in the United States, and tie in pieces with their home culture and their time here."

The pieces are now on display at Zanzibar's for the next month, along with artwork done by local artists. All of the pieces are up for bidding, and the donations provided in exchange for them will benefit IRIS's scholarship fund, which helps these foreign exchange students go back to their home countries and work on community-benefit projects.

"Money in the past from our scholarship program has gone to helping construct orphanages, to providing books for a library," Hallman said.

To check out the artwork for yourself, and to perhaps purchase a piece, visit the group's website.


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