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Seeing Peace: Artists Collaborate with the United Nations
an article by Richard Kamler

The story: Some years ago, Vaclav Havel, President of the Czech Republic, reported that when he had policy decisions to make he would invite the Czech community of creative artists, writers and poets to come to the table and participate in the decisions that effected their lives. He invited artists "to come to the table," as artists, and engage, along with the politicians and the lawyers and the bankers and the military people, in the great global dialogue of their time. Havel himself is an artist, so it was not a stretch for him.

A new metaphor - that of bringing the artist to the table, making the imagination present.

The questions: Artists talk about their work being transformative. Is it? Can it be prescient? Can it imagine futures? Imagine, if you will, that Picasso had painted Guernica BEFORE the bombs fell on Guernica? Might it have been different? Does art, does the creative imagination, have the force to effect change? Can it anticipate? Can it suggest new directions? Will perceptions shift and alter? Is/can art be pro-active?

SEEING PEACE attempts to answer these questions.

Art is our one true global language. It knows no nation. It favors no race. It acknowledges no class. It speaks to our need to heal, reveal and transform. It transcends our ordinary lives and lets us imagine what is possible. It creates a dialogue between individuals, and communication between communities. It allows us to see and to listen to each other.

On International Peace Day in September in New York, at UN Plaza, when the Peace Bell is struck and it resonates throughout the United Nations Plaza, it marks the opening of the fall session of the General Assembly. Then, at this time, pair by pair, one artist from each one of the 191 member nations, and their respective ambassador will, in a ritual fashion, enter the General Assembly, take their seat at the table, proclaiming the presence of the imagination as a crucial element in international dialogue.

SEEING PEACE, the tableaux/dialogue: will invite one artist from each one of the 191 member nation of the United Nations to sit at the table with their Ambassador in the General Assembly and participate in the artists. The imagination will be at the table.

SEEING PEACE, the exhibition: will invite one artist from each one of the 191 member nations to create one piece of art from their unique cultural perspective that reflects their vision of SEEING PEACE.

SEEING PEACE, the chant: will open in the United Nations plaza, where thousands of voices will rise and soar, intermingling languages, culture and dress in a collaborative chant for peace.

Art opens new doors for learning, understanding and peace among peoples and nations. SEEING PEACE, by being at the table, opens a new door.


Question(s) related to this article:

Do the arts create a basis for a culture of peace?,

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Latest reader comment:

Yes, the arts do create a basis for a culture of peace.
The question I would raise is where are the visual artists who have produced a Guernica like painting of Felluja? Paintings last longer than photographs which are too often fleeting.
Do the poets against the war meet annually?
I caught a bit of an interesting tv show which featured world class artists such as Wole Soyinka speaking in Israel/Palestine about ways to further the peace movement there. Did anyone else see the entire show?
I hope a local Peace Day could emulate the UN opening ceremony .

This report was posted on July 12, 2005.