'Let it begin with me!'
November 1, 2002
Olivia Johnson,9, works on a peace banner at Community Congregational UCC in Pinckney, Mich. Todd Van Sickle/Livingston County Daily Press and Argus photo.
In the age of the Internet and satellite TV, sending a message via brightly-colored paint seems terribly old-fashioned. So, in some ways, does the concept of peace.
Nevertheless, one church in Michigan used paint, Tyvek housing material and a little creative thinking to remind the world how essential peace is in the current international climate.
Youth from Community Congregational UCC in Pinckney, Mich., recently contributed their artwork, in the form of 16 9-foot x 9-foot Tyvek banners, to a worldwide message of peace.
The project is called Starr Earthworks 2002. Banners created in Pinckney—and in many other parts of the region—contributed to the 37-acre geometric design carved into Michigan farmland in nearby Albion. Stars cut in the crops intertwine with colorful circles made of hundreds of the Tyvek banners, representing Earth.
The Michigan project opened Sept. 29, and is one part of the World Peace Art Initiative, a series of peace projects in Norway, Australia, China and Italy. Scenes from Earthworks 2002 and other projects of the World Peace Art Initiative are available at . All the projects promote peace through art.
Regan Elzerman, 9, added her thoughts on peace in the form of two small designs, one purple and one yellow. She and fellow artists shared the work on one banner during Vacation Bible School at Community Congregational. As she added her shapes and colors to the banner, Regan says she thought, "If we had no peace on earth, everyone in the world wouldn't be able to do what they wanted."
Her sister, Audrey Elzerman, 10, also saw her world expand as she used her paintbrush. Audrey contributed to a banner featuring a globe surrounded by handprints and footprints. The banner signifies that everyone should walk together in peace, she says. "While we were working on it, I thought about the people on the other side of the world."
Karen Olsen, 15, painted three banners. One of these, designed with a friend, features a large pink heart and small footprints. "There aren't enough hearts in the world," the banner reads, "to show how much God loves us." She says the banners allowed her to express her thoughts since September 11, 2001. "I never thought, until 9/11, how I've been really well off," she says. As she painted, she says, she realized that we have the opportunity to live in peace with the people close to us. "Show more consideration to others," she says. "Show more courtesy. In daily life, people can be more peaceful where they are."
The Rev. Bob Ridenour, pastor, says he appreciated the global aspects of the Earthworks project from the beginning. The banners have become particularly poignant, he says, in light of the current world situation involving Iraq. The banners, he says, make a statement beyond any current act of war or peace. "Being peace makers is one of the primary callings of the church," he says. "This is a dangerous world. As Christians, we are always looking to promote peace and harmony among people."
The project is being displayed first in Livingston County, Mich. Students from Pinckney High School contributed a few banners of their own. A local theater group displayed some of the banners in conjunction with a fall musical production. Simply talking about peace, the young artists agreed, is a key to spreading the idea. "War is just a scary thing," says Rosie Gogliotti, 14, who designed a banner with Karen Olsen. "If you don't talk about peace, everyone's not aware of what could happen. We could be in for some scary stuff."
Audrey Elzerman says she thinks about all the eyes that will see the Earthworks 2002 peace project, either live through news photographs or on the Internet.
"We actually do need peace," she says, thoughtfully. "Without peace no one would get along. Eventually, maybe, peace will come."
For more information on the Peace Art Initiative, contact Nobel Schuler, Art Director, Starr Commonwealth Farm, 13725 Starr Commonwealth Rd., Albion, MI 49224; 517-629-5591; firstname.lastname@example.org.