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Karen Blessen, Dallas Arts Maven, Just Won a Marigold Big Ideas for Good Grant

A little over a week ago, we reported that local artist and activist Karen Blessen was one of fifteen national finalists for a Marigold Big Ideas for Good Grant. With your votes, she's done it. Blessen is bringing back $5,000 to change the face of Dallas arts.

Her vision is MasterPEACE: Young Artists Making a Kinder World, an arts program implemented in area schools to help local students "be the change" that we all wish to see in Dallas. MasterPEACE is a core program in 29 Pieces, a 501(c)(3) whose mission is to utilize the "healing power of art to awaken and uplift the creative human spirit to make genuine social change."

The Marigold Big Ideas for Good challenge was implemented by Participant Media, the Los Angeles-based production company known for producing socially conscious documentaries, films and media programs such as The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel -- from which the contest receives its name -- The Help, and Waiting for Superman. Blessen submitted her "big idea" back in June, and was announced the grand prize winner yesterday.

Blessen's submission for the prize focused on the MasterPEACE curriculum -- already a resounding success here in Dallas. The 14 lesson plan teaches grades 2 through 12 about peace by introducing students to historic social justice leaders and seeking to establishing world peace as a "subject of academic study and a necessary skill to learn alongside reading, history, and mathematics." Through the program, students learn to cope with issues like bullying, anger and conflicts without resorting to violence. Art is used as a vehicle for learning and rehabilitation. So far the program has reached over 3,000 children in 16 public and private schools throughout Dallas.

With the $5,000 grant, Blessen says that organizers plan to expand the program throughout the Texas state curriculum, through a pilot project that will allow MasterPEACE to refine the system. She says that the funding will help "teachers learn how to use the instruction manual, develop classroom materials and establish a support system to ensure successful use of the manual and curriculum." Ultimately, organizers hope Texas will lead other states in universal adoption and implementation of MasterPEACE's curriculum, values and vision.

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