SARASOTA – Rowing fans walking into Sunday’s races were stopping in their tracks.

“The first thing we noticed were the murals,” Sarasota resident Katharine Vestal said. “They’re just amazing. I said to my daughter, ‘How fantastic! We’ve gotta check those out.’

The murals lining the entrance of the park are an exhibit by Embracing Our Differences, an organization that uses the arts to promote diversity education in the school districts.

“Coexisting, getting along, and just playing nice in the sandbox, so to speak,” Embracing Our Differences executive director Michael J. Shelton said.

The artists: not who you’d expect.

“I was really impressed and proud to learn that local school kids have made such an impactful contribution to the championships,” Vestal said.

About 2,200 schoolchildren from Sarasota and Manatee counties were the creative masterminds behind the 59 art panels.

“They’ve created world statements that connect them to a global community in a way that’s very unique,” Shelton said. “You just don’t have that opportunity.”

Each panel represents a different country competing in the championships.

“It shows the world that Sarasota really is behind this regatta,” Shelton said.

It also gives spectators a sense of pride for their country as they walk in.

“I think at this time, when there’s so much division, it’s really important to feel like we’re inviting everyone, including everyone,” Vestal said, “and really championing that idea of embracing our differences.”

The artists of the murals will be taking trips with their schools throughout the week to see the exhibit and some of the races.