Brandeis student paints winning vision of tolerance

Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.

To one second-grader, the world is a huge green-and- blue swirl, a sphere surrounded by people of every color holding hands.

That was what Nicole Farael designed when art teacher Cindy Morris put her students to the task of creating a graphic image of their vision of a world without prejudice. While Brandeis Hillel Day School students were putting their brushes and pencils to this task, so were hundreds of other North Bay students of all ages.

But it was Farael's simple, colorful image that caught the judge's eye at the Pacific Sun, a weekly newspaper sponsoring a T-Shirts for Tolerance Contest.

"It just sort of spoke to everybody's soul," said Pacific Sun editor and publisher Judy Shils. "It was very thoughtful, with every imaginable color and kind of person. It really sent a good message to everybody."

That message has been screen printed on T-shirts and is now for sale through the newspaper and at A Clean Well Lighted Place for Books in Larkspur Landing. Proceeds from the T-shirt sales will benefit Youth In Art, a non-profit organization that provides performing and visual arts programs for students.

For Farael, presenting her vision of peace is all she can do to bring people together, or as the T-shirt says in her 8-year-old handwriting, "holding hands, living in peace."

Farael recently discussed her winning art entry during recess at her San Rafael school. Wearing the T-shirt and a pair of bright green leggings, she sat on a wooden bench while other kids played loudly on the jungle gym. Taking pensive pauses before answering questions, Farael slowly looked up before speaking, her large, brown, almond-shaped eyes peering up shyly.

"All people from different colors can live as equals, that's the way I wish things could be. If I show them and say, `That's the way I want it to be,' it might happen," said the San Rafael student.

Having spent many of her summers in Israel with her Israeli-born parents, Farael may have a keener sense of war and peace than other girls her age. In her estimation, however, achieving social harmony and tranquility might be even harder here in the Bay Area than in the Middle East.

After all, in Israel, "there's bad people who attack, but here, there's bad guys and earthquakes."

After careful consideration, Farael commented that war and violence can even "ruin people that are peaceful. And that's not right."

Winning the contest made Farael "very, very happy." She not only gets her artwork on a T-shirt, but also receives $200 for her savings account, tickets to the circus, clothes from the Gap and other prizes.

Though this is the first time her art has received this much attention, she said she's been working on her craft since kindergarten, and will continue to paint, draw and sculpt.

As for her message of multicultural friendship, she hopes to keep showing other people how she thinks the world should be, whether through artwork, writing, or simply "telling a person next to me."