Reflections on The Art of Peace

By Rachel La Due

For the past couple of months we have been throwing paint on a canvas.

There was some method to the madness, a few procedures to follow, several requirements that had to be met. These were more guiding points than stringent rules. We had a vision for the piece, as all artists do, but only a vague idea for how it would turn out.

For the past couple of months myself and my two intern supervisors, Kara Wong and Daniel Orth, have been planning a four-day long symposium on Peacebuilding and the Arts.

The Art of Peace took place November 11-14th and was hosted by the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice. The symposium provided a space for local, national, and international artists to come together and share the ways in which they have used art as a tool in conflict transformation.

For the four days of The Art of Peace we put our brushes down and enjoyed the piece we had worked so hard to produce. We gathered alongside students, faculty, and members of the greater San Diego community to view the artwork by artists from Myanmar who have documented the struggles and triumphs of their country as it transitions from military dictatorship to emerging democracy through their art. We listened to musicians from Brazil, Morocco, Israel and Japan sing together in one beautiful melody. We sang protest songs from America’s history and the South African anti-apartheid movement along with choral scholars and Women PeaceMakers. We watched youth dance across the stage in an expression of themselves and their experiences. We listened to formerly incarcerated individuals speak from their hearts and from their pain in a powerful spoken word performance. We explored ways in which poetry, performance and movement can be used as a form of peaceful protest to respond to racial injustices and police brutality. We shared with each other, learned from one another, and collaborated together to create weapons that can be used for peaceful purposes.

During these past couple of months I have learned that the power of art does not come from the end product, but is found within the process. The splattering of paint. The planning and the preparing. The wandering of communities to tell strangers we encounter about the incredible upcoming event. The meeting of new people and revisiting of old friends. The revisions of written information and then re-revisions because we were still not satisfied with the first. The result turned out to be beautiful, but the process was transformative.

For the days following The Art of Peace we took a step back to reflect on the experience. We were surprised to find our work blank. We smiled as we realized we had not actually done any of the creating, we had only just provided the canvas.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of the IPJ or of the University of San Diego.

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