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Edison State 'wish ambassadors' leave for Iceland with wishes of peace and love

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Edison State College art students, Josue' Charles, Christopher Lacoste and Leila Mesdaghi flew out of Fort Myers International Airport on Wednesday bound for Reykjavik, Iceland. Calling themselves Fort Myers' Wish Ambassadors, they had with them a box of wishes for world and personal peace collected by the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery from Yoko Ono's Wish Trees since the opening of her exhibition on January 24.

The Wish Tree has been a cornerstone in Yoko Ono's exhibitions since her introduction of the concept sometime in the early '90s. So not surprisingly, Yoko Ono Imagine Peace curators Kevin Concannon and John Noga included Wish Tree in the Yoko Ono exhibition they brought to Fort Myers in January.

Since then, gallery visitors have scribbled their personal wishes for peace on shipping tags which they've then attached to the branches of two ficus trees. The gallery has periodically harvested the tags to make room for new wishes, and the majority of these wishes will be delivered to Yoko Ono's studio in New York, where they'll eventually join thousands of others on Yoko's next trip to Iceland. There, she will place them in one or more time capsules in the base of the Imagine Peace Tower on Videy Island outside Reykjavik. But the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery decided that three Edison State student should hand deliver a representative sample of the wishes they've collected directly to the tower, and Edison State Visual Arts Teacher Dana Roes hand selected Josue' Charles, Christopher Lacoste and Leila Mesdaghi for this honor.

"They are such outstanding students that I was already in the process of planning a group show in the gallery that features their individual and collective work," noted Roes, who is accompanying Charles, Lacoste and Mesdaghi on their sojourn to Iceland. "So when the Iceland trip came up, it was only natural to choose them to go."

But their connection with Yoko Ono Imagine Peace runs deeper. Josue', Christopher and Leila were on hand at the opening to provide instruction to visitors on how to assemble the broken globe that is at the core of Yoko's Mend Piece. And, of course, all three wrote out and attached their own wishes to the branches of the Wish Trees. But none would reveal what their wishes are.

"That would be bad luck," observes Mesdaghi, who notes that Yoko herself never reads the wishes that are sent to her for inclusion in the base of the Imagine Peace Tower.

"I hope that whatever [the exhibition's attendees] wrote on the paper comes true," said Charles, hefting the box of wishes in one hand. "I feel like we're ambassadors of peace and love, and feel very honored and fortunate to be able to deliver the messages," Mesdaghi added with hushed reverence.

All three students had messages for Yoko as well. "I'm very grateful for all she's done," said Lacoste. "Her message is so positive, and so much good has come from her."

"We have a show in her space, and we're hoping to expand her message in our own show," Mesdaghi chimed in.

"I just wish we could meet her in Iceland," Josue' Charles quipped, a wide smile claiming the corners of his mouth.

Roes and her three students all appreciate the magnitude of the opportunity they've been given to have a group show at a venue as prestigious as the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery. Since the opening is just a scant two weeks from the date they return, the trio does not have the luxury of waiting until they're back in Southwest Florida to start creating the work that will be included in the show.

"We've been creating work since we learned about the trip six weeks ago," Charles noted.

"And we intend to create individual and collective pieces while we're in Iceland," said Mesdaghi, who confessed that nascent ideas are still bubbling up from both her conscious and unconscious mind.

"It's going to be experiential, so as things unfold, we hope we have everything we need [to create intriguing artworks while we are in Iceland]," related Roes who, as an internationally-renowned artist, fully understands the creative process and the demands of getting ready for a show in the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery.

The Imagine Peace Tower is a light tower located on Videy Island in Kollafjörður Bay near Reykjavík that soars two and one-half miles into the sky on a clear Icelandic night. Erected by Yoko Ono in 2006-7, it is conjured by 15 searchlights with prisms that act as mirrors, reflecting a column of light vertically into the sky from a 30-foot wide wishing well base that contains time capsules that hold more than a million wishes harvested from Ono's Wish Trees since she first introduced the installation in the early 1990s. The students will visit the tower during their seven-day stay in Iceland. Their group show at the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery opens on April 10.

If you want your personal wish for peace to be included with those shipped to Yoko Ono, you have until March 29 to visit Yoko Ono Imagine Peace at the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery on the Lee campus of Edison State College. During the exhibit, gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday (closed Sundays and holidays). For more information, please telephone 239-489-9313.

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