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Some of about 7,000 canvases created by the La Crosse Compassion Project hang at the Pump House. The exhibition will run through June 28. The project aspires to teach the practice of compassion through the use of art and writing.

Thousands of La Crosse students spent the school year participating in a community-wide art project inspired by the work of Richard Davidson.

Now the University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher will have a chance to share his work with the community. Davidson studies links between mindfulness and healthy brain activity. He will speak at the La Crosse Compassion Project LIVE!, scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday at Viterbo University’s Fine Arts Center Main Theatre.

“It really is intended to be a celebration of the work we’ve done,” said Tim Riley, who spear-headed the effort as director of the La Crosse Public Education Foundation.

The foundation first announced plans for the Compassion Project in June 2013. The event at Viterbo will allow La Crosse residents to learn about the neuroscience behind the project, but will also provide them with entertainment, Riley said.

Davidson’s presentation will be coupled with musical performances from Central High School students and local musician Dan Sebranek.

About 7,000 K-12 students participated in project this year by transforming blank, six-by-six-inch canvasses into works of art. Compassion-themed art went on display May 2 at venues across the community, including a major installment at the Pump House Regional Arts Center.

Riley adapted the La Crosse project from a similar event in Appleton, Wis., which he helped organize when he was the director of a local art museum. Riley heard Davidson speak in Appleton and was inspired by his research.

Davidson founded the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at UW-Madison. The growing center and Davidson’s work has become internationally known for exploring the connection between mindfulness and brain development.

Riley hopes the event Monday will extend the local conversation about kindness and compassion beyond June 28, when the Pump House display ends.

“There will be a call to action,” Riley said.


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