NAPLES — Gulfview Middle School sixth grader Mason Anderson carefully painted six blue and green globes on the top side of a black umbrella Friday morning at Cambier Park.
Around each of the globes, he painted a neat white background in a diamond shape.
"The black represents space, and I chose the white because I thought it would make contrast," he said. "The earth represents us."
Mason's umbrella was one of nearly 200 that young artists from four local schools painted as part of late artist Matt Lamb's Umbrellas for Peace project.
The umbrellas were painted with messages of peace and understanding. Some messages were written out in words while others represented those concepts more abstractly.
"I think the project is fun and helpful at the same time," said Mason. "What I can tell you is that art is changing the world."
Umbrellas for Peace is a project Lamb first conceptualized for 38 children who had been affected by the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon.
On the first anniversary of the attacks, the children painted the underside of umbrellas to represent their fears and pain, and the outside of the umbrellas with messages of peace. The children then participated in a parade before touring the White House and displaying their umbrellas on Capitol Hill.
Since that time, more than 2 million children in 29 countries have painted umbrellas as part of the movement.
Naples gallery owner Joanne Giunta brought the project to Naples this year after seeing peace umbrellas at a gallery in Chicago.
She has plans to hold more events in coming years.
"It's incredible," said Joanne Rose, an art teacher who brought 48 students from Lake Park Elementary to participate. "It's making me realize that peace is going to be possible with these kids."
Rose said she studied Matt Lamb's work with the children and helped them research the peace symbol as preparation for the event.
"What a wonderful, enlightened mind Mr. Lamb must have had," she said.
Lamb died last month at the age of 79. An exhibition of his work is showing at Giunta's Jo-Gi Gallery on Twelth Avenue South through March 21.
Kaiya Roeser is one of Rose's fourth grade students who participated in the event. She painted the panels of her umbrella in yellow, blue and red, then wrote the words "hope," "peace" and "love" around its outer edge.
"I've got paint splattered all over me, but I think it's very artistic and it makes people think about what they drew," she said.
Olivia Nochta, another fourth grade student at Lake Park, lightly splattered different colors of paint over a white peace sign surrounded by red hearts and a handprint on her umbrella. She said she didn't spend too much time planning the design.
"I just kind of thought of it, I just played it by ear," she said. "It means no one should be judged because of who they are."
In addition to Lake Park and Gulfview, students from St. Ann Catholic School and Seagate Elementary participated in the event.
Once the children painted their umbrellas, they formed a long line that wended through the area front of the park's bandshell before ending on stage.
The Naples High School Jazz Band played music for the painters throughout the morning.
After posing for pictures, the kids vacated the stage for introductions of city, county and state officials and comments by Mayor John Sorey.
"This is a great day because it represents so many things that are important to our style of life and what we believe in," said Sorey.
"I think it's really wonderful to get the kinds to think about peace and understanding," said Joan Talano of Naples, who served on the event's organizing committee. "Not only because of the troubles around the world but in their classrooms, too. I think it's just tolerance."