Promoting Peace Through Art

Painting by children, International Peace Day 2009, Geneva. Yann/Wikimedia Commons

Creating art is a way to reimagine the future, to build bridges and foster understanding, to develop empathy, to make friends, to express feelings, to build self-confidence, to learn how to be flexible and open-minded, to be exposed to different ideas and learn to listen to the views of others, to work collaboratively.  These are all attributes that can help to promote peace.

In a world in which many live amidst violence, these organizations and others like them are creating opportunities for children and adults to engage in the arts and to discover things about themselves and others that will help them better deal with differences and handle conflicts peacefully.

Many organizations are geared towards children and teens, as they are the world's next leaders, doers, and activists, and the best hope for a new and better future. Some of the organizations are international, some are more local, but all are necessary, and doing important work.

Here are a few organizations that are sure to inspire you:

International Child Art Foundation

The International Child Art Foundation (ICAF) is considered one of the top 25 charities for children in the United States by More4Kids. It was incorporated in the District of Columbia in 1997 when a national arts organization for children did not exist and has since become the premier national and international arts and creativity arts organization for children, using the arts to help build bonds of understanding and friendship among children from different cultures.

The ICAF has developed creative interventions to help children directly traumatized by manmade conflicts.

According to their website, "These interventions tap into children's innate creative resources so they can imagine their enemy as human beings not so different from themselves and hence begin to visualize peaceful co-existence. The overarching goal is to reduce the transmission of trauma and hatred from the current generation to the future one.

The program develops empathy through art and imparts leadership skills so children can co-create a peaceful future for their communities."

The ICAF is involved in many other things as they strive toward the gift of peace: they arrange exhibitions of children's art in the U.S. and internationally; they fostered and promote holistic STEAMS Education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics, and Sport); they run the World Children's Festival on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. every four years; they train teachers and provide lesson plans for Arts Olympiad and Peace through Art Programs; they put out the quarterly ChildArt Magazine.

The ICAF goals of cultivating children's imagination, reducing violence, remediating suffering, fostering creativity, and developing empathy are goals that the world needs now. Read an informative 2010 interview with the director of the International Child Art Foundation here, courtesy of the Artful Parent.

Mentoring Peace Through Art

Located in Minneapolis, MN, Mentoring Peace Through Art develops leadership potential in children and teens "through art projects that serve the social needs of diverse communities." The collaborative art projects are created through two programs, MuralWorks in the Streets and MuralWorks in the Schools.

The participants work together as a team, but each individual is given a job for which he or she is solely responsible. The success of the whole team depends on each individual doing his or her job well. As a result, the participants are able to see the value of what they do and the value of what the team does together, discovering leadership qualities within themselves that they didn't know they had. As the website says: 

"Actionable teamwork turns into a positive work ethic, which, in turn, results in a genuine feeling of self-worth by all participants....Through MuralWorks® in the Streets, Mentoring Peace Through Art replaces walls of terrorizing gang graffiti with explosions of vibrant color, created by teens who never before held a paintbrush much less took responsibility for its result."

Create Peace Project

Create Peace Project is based in San Francisco, California. It was formed in 2008 in response to the suffering caused by the overwhelming amount of violence in the world and the decreasing exposure to the creative arts in people's lives.  The Create Peace Project is for all ages but is especially geared toward ages 8-18, with the goal of strengthening community and human connection and cultivating peace by "educating, empowering and activating joyous feelings of self-worth using the universal language of creativity."

Projects include The Peace Exhange, in which students from around the world send one another peace cards (a 6 x 8 inch postcard) to foster connection and spread peace; Banners for Peace, a project for 4th to 12th graders to design and paint 10 x 20 foot banners with inspirational peace slogans; Community Murals, for people of all ages to come together and transform "dead" wall space in a community into a work of art; The Singing Tree, a school-wide collaborative community project to create a mural that responds to a specific challenge.

In 2016 Create Peace Project is launching the Billboards for Peace project in the San Francisco Bay Area and is expanding their Teacher Training Program.

Global Art Project for Peace

The Global Art Project for Peace is an International Art Exchange for Peace that takes place every two years. Participants create a work of art that expresses their vision of global peace and goodwill. The artwork is displayed locally in each participant's or group's community and then is exchanged with an international participant or group with whom the participant or group has been matched.

According to the website, "The exchange occurs April 23-30 biennially, resulting in thousands of people sending messages of Peace around the world at one time—visions of unity simultaneously encircle the Earth. The art is sent as a gift of global friendship and exhibited in the receiving community."  Images of the art are sent to the Global Art Project Art Bank so that visitors to  the website from around the world can view the visions of peace and unity.

You can visit the 2012 and past galleries of artwork created for the project here.

International Committee of Artists for Peace

The International Committee of Artists for Peace is an organization founded by visionary artists "to establish peace and develop peacemakers through the transformative power of art." They do this through performance events, educational programs, special awards, collaboration with other like-minded organizations, and exhibits.

Watch this video from the International Committee of Artists for Peace of musician Herbie Hancock as he shares his vision of the artist's powerful role in promoting peace.

World Citizen Artists

According to the website, the mission of World Citizen Artists "is to build a movement of artists, creatives and thinkers whose aim is to create effective and evolutionary change in the World through events, exchanges, and other opportunities involving the use of art to raise global awareness."  The topics of particular concern to this organization include peace, climate change, human rights, poverty, health, and education.

Here are some of the projects that artists are undertaking that could use your support or that might inspire your own projects. 

There are many other local, national, and international organizations and artists doing wonderful peace work through art and creativity. Join the movement and spread peace.