Art, at it's core, is about aesthetic appeal - but it has the potential to be much more, Absegami High School art teacher Jana Keeley believes.

This year, Keeley's students have taken part in the One Million Bones project, a national art activism campaign that seeks to raise awareness of ongoing genocides.

Keeley has made a point of teaching her students that art can induce real change, she said.

"I like to do at least one thing a year where they're making art for a cause, not just to learn a new skill or make something pretty to hang on their wall," Keeley said.

The One Million Bones project was created in 2009 by Richard Stockton College graduate Naomi Natale, who enlisted individuals and organizations nationwide to craft bones, which are laid out on the National Mall for three days each year. This year the installation will be displayed June 8-10.

The Bezos Family Foundation has pledged to donate $1 to humanitarian organization CARE for each bone donated by April 28, up to $500,000. Individuals who do not wish to make a bone can donate $15 to the project, and one will be made in their stead.

Keeley's students have been working on the project since early January, and each student has shaped, fired and glazed a piece. Some have made multiple pieces.

Senior Guy Higgins chose to make a wrist bone - the same bone he broke in football season - for the project. He said that while the project doesn't seem like much on its surface, its significance becomes apparent after further thought.

"You kind of look at it, and see we're only making bones, but all these bones were really lost by people killed in these genocides, so it's kind of deep to think about," Higgins said.

This year is the first Keeley has had her students participate in One Million Bones, but she has incorporated similar campaigns into her lessons before. Last year, she had her students participate in the Empty Bowls Project, for which they crafted bowls that were sold at a silent auction, the proceeds of which were donated to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, Southern Branch.

Keeley said she plans to continue to involve her students in such projects, although she's not yet sure whether she'll choose one, alternate them or pick a different project altogether. Should she continue with One Million Bones, she hopes to follow it up with a trip to view the installation.

Regardless of how she proceeds in the future, though, this project has already made a big impact on Keeley's students.

"It definitely made genocide seem like an actual, tangible thing, and I think it affected us to play a part in the activism," senior Tina Murphy said. "It's inspiring. It shows you can make a difference even if it's small."

For more information on the One Million Bones project, visit onemillionbones.org.

Contact Braden Campbell:

609-272-7415