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Glen Park Elementary Spring Mural ~ COMPLETE!

Posted by / May 9, 2015 / Categories: Peace Exchange / 0 Comments
Over the past six weeks, Create Peace Project, under the leadership and project facilitation of Ross Holzman, Izabella Tschig, Laurie Marshall, and Wanda Whitaker, worked with the entire Glen Park Elementary school community. This mural project included the entire 360 Kinder – 5th grade student body population and most of the staff painting together to complete 250 feet of high vibration, multi-color, uplifting and inspirational mural. This was the fifth time Create Peace Project has used the “Inner Peace” mural technique. A technique that allows all participants the freedom and confidence to joyously express themselves with paint. In the first phase of the “Inner Peace” style, students are asked to paint a large simple shape in one color. The shapes can be traditional or made up/abstract. Students can choose the size and placement of their shape on the wall and the color of their preference. We worked for 6 days to cover the expansive stretches of wall space with beautiful solid colored shapes. DSC_0288 In the second phase, students are asked to create smaller shapes and patterns within the existing larger shapes on the wall. We continue to allow students the freedom to design the shapes and patterns of their own creation and paint them on the wall where they feel best compliments what is already there. Once our tapestry of color and form and amazing patterns is complete, we enter the third phase, and we let the true magic of this “Inner Peace” technique to be revealed. It was an exciting project to witness the students, teachers and parents continue to marvel at the constantly changing wall. Continuously curious with what was going to happen and how this fabric of bright color and exciting detail was going to make more sense. In the third phase of the project, we chalk the students in joyous celebratory poses, expressing their body in a passionate uplifting form. For this Glen Park Mural we chalked 98 students and 2 teachers: 100 participants came to life on the 250 feet of mural. Once the figures forms were chalked, we block out the negative space between them to reveal the bright and powerful silhouettes popping from the wall. In addition to the 100 figures, we asked classrooms to share simple uplifting words or phrases that they wanted to see in the mural. Numerous inspiring words and phrases were added to the wall, along with complimentary images and accents in the same way, by painting around them and blocking out the negative space to reveal the word or image from the brightly painted landscape behind. This was the best mural project Create Peace Project has led to date and you can see images of the process from start to finish on our gallery page here:

“Art as Peace Building” Article in Art Education Journal

Posted by / May 9, 2014 / Categories: Create Peace / 1 Comment
Create Peace Project’s Lead Artist and Program Manager’s Laurie Marshall’s article for the Art Education Journal. Check out Page 47, where Create Peace Project’s programs are described.          
Copyright 2014. Used with permission of the National Art Education Association.

Freedom through Creativity

Posted by / May 7, 2014 / Categories: Create Peace / 0 Comments
The blank wall.  The blank canvas.  A white sheet of paper. There are endless possibilities.   For some, making art and expressing ones self can be challenging.  As if there were a right way to do it, or an evaluation coming, you can often here a person say “I’m not good at art.”  or “I’m not an artist.”   But this is not true.   Art and creatively expressing one-self is an act of self-care, self-exploration, and liberating self freedom.    Allowing one’s self the freedom to simply let the words, colors, lines, or notes come out, in whatever way feels right….that’s art….and that’s enough.   There is no ‘right or wrong’.  there is no ‘good or bad’.  those are concepts of an education system, of a society rooted in judgement and comparison.  But making art, ie, creative self expression, is not about the cultural norms and educational evaluations, critics and comparisons to that which has been done before.   Expressing ones self is an act of freedom. An act of uncovering and exposing oneself, a brave and courageous step, and it’s a liberating, healing and necessary uplifting of spirit.  Making art, in whatever way one chooses to do so, is an absolutely necessary practice for healthy, well-being and self-care. What has been lost, is that allowance and acceptance that we are all creative beings.  A human being is continually creating and constantly healing. It’s what we do, naturally.   When we make art and creatively express ourselves, we learn.  We grow.  We bring forth the unseen and make it seen (or heard, felt, etc).  When we take the time to attend to the feelings, thoughts, and emotions in a peaceful and present way, delve inward to uncover what is going on, and express it, we liberate that part of ourself into the world.  This crafting and sharing of deeply personal stuff has huge benefits to the mind, the heart, and the well being of the individual, as it grants us the deep freedom to simply share who we are and what we are with the world. Let em have it.  Let em see what’s behind the eyes of your being and experience what you are.   If we release the fear of being ‘bad’ or doing it ‘wrong’ as all too many a teacher or parent has instilled on their child ~ we can access a deep and meaningful freedom that truly brings joy and creates peace.

Create Peace Project is going to Sarajevo! Join Us!

Posted by / January 29, 2014 / Categories: India 2011 Peace Exchange / 0 Comments

Mid Way Update from Ghana

Posted by / March 13, 2013 / Categories: India 2011 Peace Exchange / 1 Comment
I am happy to report that all is going well in Ghana!  I have been here for about one month.  Ghana is hot, the people are friendly and kind, the children are wide eyed and curious and there is a feeling of being “in the right place at the right time.” I have been staying in Cape Coast, about 3 hours West of Accra, the capital, and focusing the work of this years Peace Exchange on schools in this area.   In the past couple weeks I have visited six schools and worked with more than 800 students.   In the next two weeks I will be in 10 schools in 12 days and completing a huge portion of this years project.
I have been posting photos on our Create Peace Project facebook page.   If you are on facebook, or know that your students are, please direct them to our page here:  Create Peace Project’s Facebook Page
You can access photos in these albums even if you are not on facebook:
Our first workshop: a village public school in a sweet setting in Komenda, a village 30 minutes from Cape Coast (here I gave away some Public School #99 4th- 6th grade cards)
2nd Workshop: at another village primary school in Komenda (here I gave away James Kennedy and Bakersville cards)
Our 3rd workshop at another primary school in the village of Komemda with 85 6th graders (delivered P.S #99 6th grade and Hai Malama, HI cards)
Our 4th, our largest workshop to date with 260+ students grade 3 – 9 (gave away Druid Hills, PS #99 5th grade, Kenilworth cards)
The 5th workshop was at an all Boys Catholic School in Cape Coast with 4th-6th grade boys: (I delivered Pope Elementary and Druid Hills cards)
Our 6th workshop was at a village school in Takradi, two hours from Cape Coast with 200 students from 1st – 6th grades ( I exchanged Marin Elementary, PS #99 5th grade, and IT Crestwell cards)
A few things I have learned: Students in Ghana public schools are not properly equipped to learn.  Most do not have pens/pencils on a daily basis with which to write.  Text books are rare.   Teachers focus primarily on a call and response system of teaching, or writing on the board and having the students copy into their books (if they have a notebook or writing increment to use)   Most children in Primary 4 and below are still struggling to read and write.  Many of the postcards do not have messages on the backs and this is sad, and a reality of the education system here.   Children in Ghana certainly DO NOT have art as part of their eduction and thus there is tremendous excitement to participate in The Peace Exchange, and yet a very primitive capacity to express ones self through drawing.     I find that the students behavior is consistently good: loving, attentive, curious, and shy.   When asked to share their ideas openly, there are only a few students willing to do so.   This seems to be a result of the excessive emphasis on call and response learning, rather than having a more interactive sharing, communication between teacher and student.
Some of the positives are the students are super bright and caring, extremely curious and polite to the tall white man at their school, have beautiful, loving hearts and are eager to see photos and art work of students from the US and Canada.   I find their capacity to sit quietly and meditate is remarkable and indicative of their discipline and respect, which is an awesome quality.

2013 Peace Exchange in GHANA!

Posted by / February 27, 2013 / Categories: India 2011 Peace Exchange / 0 Comments
I’m here!  I’m in Ghana.  It’s hot and it’s muggy….and it’s Great!  Welcome to Ghana! I am honored and excited to be here.  Create Peace Project will be partnering with Africana Child Foundation in Cape Coast, where I will be based for the next two months. This is an exciting time and a different type of Peace Exchange compared to years past.  This year I will focus my efforts on schools in one region, in this case the town of Cape Coast and the surrounding villages (within one hours drive).  In years past, much time has been spent traveling to different cities/towns/regions and visiting schools in many places. In Ghana this year I felt it would be nice to focus the energy of this art-for-peace project on one area and work with as many students as we could from one area….perhaps such that they will some day know and connect to each other on this level of peace and understanding. We have begun to visit schools.  The interest is high and the excitement ever present from the children.  It is always amazing to watch a vision manifest into reality with a bit of action, a few key relationships, and the courage to step out into the world and expose your heart for the benefit of the children.   This is what I am up to and this is what The 2013 Peace Exchange is about. We much overcome our fears and doubt and come together to listen, learn and share with and from each other.  We must cross the boundaries of our comfort zone and open our heart to sharing love with all those we come into contact.  It is my hope that the children of Cape Coast, Ghana will feel the love and the care of the children in the US and Canada as shared on their peace cards.  I also hope that the children will some day remember the experience they had, the wisdom they shared and heard from their classmates and peers about peace and how we can create peace and find it in their own hearts, bodies and minds to make the peaceful choice in their actions, communications and thoughts towards others and the world around us.                          In peace we come, with open arms and love to share from our heARTS!

25,000 Kids and a Growing International Art for Peace Project

Posted by / July 10, 2012 / Categories: India 2011 Peace Exchange / 1 Comment
In 2009 and 2010 Create Peace Project included more than 3,000 students from schools across the United States in our first International art for peace exchange.   The project was called Peace Pals and it was destined for Uganda where Create Peace Project partnered with In Movement: Art for Social Change.  While in Uganda, Ross Holzman visited 30 schools and included more than 3,000 children in Peace Pals.   Each one of those Ugandan kids created an original work of art and shared a message of peace as well as received an original peace card from a student in the United States.   The response was amazing and for most of those Ugandan youth it was the first time they had handled a crayon, marker or colored pencil of any kind. Those 3,000 peace cards were brought back to the US.  Some were returned to a few of the participating schools, and most of them were saved for the next exchange which was going to happen in India in early 2011.   During the fall of 2010, another 5,000 peace cards were sent out to schools across the US and Canada, and nearly 3,000 returned in time for our departure for India in February of 2011.   3,000 US cards along with about 2,000 Ugandan peace cards travelled to India with Ross and his professional photographer; Heather where they would be distributed to students in schools across Northern India. While in India Create Peace Project partnered with Pratham, one of the largest education NGO (non-governmental organizations) in the world and harnessed their support for visiting schools in numerous regions where they worked.   In India, CPP had the good fortune of having numerous volunteer support in our efforts to include more than 5,000 students from 30 schools in many cities during our three months there.   Again, the response was brilliant and the kids and teachers, parents and administrators loved the project.   It was amazing to see the students in schools of all kinds effortlessly and easily sit for meditation and share their prayers for peace. In 2012, Create Peace Project facilitated three exchanges between North America and schools/NGO’s abroad.  We sent about 500 peace cards to Haiti with a group building a children’s center in Jacmel, Haiti.  We did another exchange with about 1,200 students from San Francisco and Medellin, Colombia in partnership wtih Mi Sangre Foundation.  And we also included more than 5,000 students from 40 schools in the US, Canada, and Nepal in our 3rd Annual Peace Exchange, in which Ross Holzman traveled to Nepal and facilitated workshops in schools of all types in six cities around the country. We are excited by the continued growth of The Peace Exchange and are currently in development of a vision for a documentary film that would follow Create Peace Project around the globe to 20 or more countries, including 10’s of thousands of students in this international arts-for-peace initiative, and sparking a movement of art for peace wherever we go.    If you are interested in getting your school or youth organization involved in The Peace Exchange, please be in touch.  

Workshop #5 @ SOS Hermann Gmeiner Tibetan School : Pokhara

Posted by / February 20, 2012 / Categories: India 2011 Peace Exchange / 1 Comment
It took quite a bit of effort to get into a school on a half-day Friday.  The front gate was locked.  The side entrances appeared locked, but once around back, we found our way inside where we found the principal of the SOS Hermann Gmeiner Tibetan Elementary School.  This lovely little school was recommended to us by a graduate of the school, a woman who was working at a previous school we had visited.  The school is  located in the Tibetan Camp in Pokhara.               The Principal told us that many organizations from around the world are always asking to come to their school and do some kind of activity or workshop….even research with the kids.  He says that they get so many offers that they have to turn them all down.   Except when you show up with an arts for peace project and have experience working with Tibetan youth. It felt great to hear him offer his humble gratitude and appreciation of the project and his gratitude for us coming to his school to share this cross-cultural exchange of art and messages of peace with his students.   He stressed the on going, nearly 60-year struggle of the Tibetan people and said that Tibetans need peace.  Megha and I both repeated, “everyone needs peace” and he repeatedly emphasized that “we need it more!”  And on some level, I have to agree. He was very grateful and appreciative of the Peace Exchange and complimentary of this work I have been doing for the children. We spent the whole day at this school, doing four workshops in two 6th grade classes, and with both the fourth and fifth graders.   Working in smaller groups was nice.   The students highly respectful, polite, and courteous.   There presence was beautiful and their willingness to participate and share their ideas on peace, vocal and enthusiastic.   I find that Tibetan kids are given much more arts education than most of the other students I have worked with in India, Nepal and Uganda.   This was clearly demonstrated in their art work and positive messages shared on their peace cards.         Highlight Story:  In the last workshop of the day, we had a group of about 25 6th grade teenagers.  Shortly after we started, explained the project, discussed peace with the students and passes out peace cards, several boys asked to leave to go play in their final cricket match of the year.  An inter-school match.  Four boys left, changed clothes, and were off.  A couple returned for brief stints to put some love into their cards before they disappeared.  Several times boys would come back to the room and call to a young boy seated at the front of the room to join them.  They would yell at him to come on in Tibetan and he would continue working on his art.  After a third boy came and enthusiastically encouraged his teammate to come and he did not get up, I walked over and smiled.   “Peace is more important,” he said.   I was so moved and still to this moment feel deeply touched by his decision.   Finally the coach came and stressed that he was next to bat and that he must join the team and play.  He removed his jersey from his bag and with some slight resistance, stepped away from the beautiful work of art he was making and existed the room….not before I snapped a photo of him and his peace card.       I am grateful for the example this boy set and his dedication to the project and his choice to stay put for as long as he could to share his love and create something meaningful for the cause of peace.   Tashi Delek  

The Importance of Creativity

Posted by / February 20, 2012 / Categories: Nepal Peace Exchange 2012 / 3 Comments
I carry about 500 colored pencils, 400 markers (a.k.a: sketch pens, outside the U.S.) and a few hundred crayons along with assorted sharpeners, rubbers (i.e. erasers) and pens to share with the students during our 2012 Peace Exchange experience here in Nepal.

 Some of the most inspiring moments of Peace Exchange workshops happen while watching students eyes widen to the array of colors being presented to them and listening to their minds churn with possibilities that each new color provides.

 There are a few things I’ve learned in my years as an arts educator that strike me as important.  All kids, and all people, are naturally creative.  Creativity is the truest expression of our soul, of our deepest inner nature.  The way we choose to express ourselves is an expression of our inner voice; the authentic, raw, and real energy of our existence.   I choose to use visual art as the technique of choice, as I feel that in each picture a child can communicate so much about who they are and how they see the world.  In this case, we are talking about making art for peace.  The way a child organizes his/her thoughts, vision, and use of color, pattern, and form reveals so much about the innate inner wisdom and ease of their mind and heart.   Without extrapolating too much, I would guess that one could probably gauge a child’s intelligence by a simple drawing, but it’s nice to know that this is neither an important aspect of this project, or the intention of what we are doing.

Simply making art, by drawing and coloring, gives a child the opportunity to express itself in a unique and profound way, not regularly undertaken.               The second bit of wisdom I’ve gathered is that through the practice of making art, in this case, visual art and writing, a child or person, must turn their attention inward.  As one begins to explore being creative, they must shift their attention from the world around us inward, thus initiating a practice of introspection and the cultivation of self-awareness.   Looking inward to draw on thoughts, feelings, emotions, and ideas related to the peace topic at hand is, in my opinion, itself a peace practice. And thus, by making art for peace and then sharing it with a similarly aged student in another part of the world, each child is engaged in a multi-faceted peace practice.    Practices include:   1)  pause and breathe, be calm quiet and still.   2) reflect on the meaning of peace,  ones vision of peace  3)  send peace energetically out into the world   4)  turn ones attention inward in contemplation of being creative  5) transform thought/feeling into visual expression = alchemy 6) while being creative, one naturally pauses ~ focus brings quiet : “the Peace Pause”  7) creating something and giving it away is sharing.  Sharing art = sharing love and love = peace  (I’ve heard thousands of kids confirm it!)  *8) having fun while doing it all!

Arrival Nepal : February 1st, 2012

Posted by / February 14, 2012 / Categories: India 2011 Peace Exchange / 1 Comment
So, here we are.  Wow!  Nepal. It took almost a week to fully arrive, but now I am definitely here.   The first few days in Kathmandu were shocking and a bit disorienting.   All of a sudden I am in the 6th poorest country on the planet and walking around dirty streets of struggle.   It certainly took a minute to acclimate. But now I am feeling great and very much excited to be here, having our first Peace Exchange workshop day complete.  Today we spend the day at a local public school here in Chitwan where we held two beautiful sessions with about 160 teenagers.   One teacher comments early in the workshop how the students never get anything of the sort in an extra curricular activity….a sad state of affairs.  For most of the worlds children there are no art classes, let alone art supplies. The power of creativity is certainly a subject I am passionate about and will expand on this topic further, very soon.  It is certainly a pleasure to be able to engage these kids in a conversation on peace and share an art making experience with them, if only for a few hours. The excitement in the room is palpable.   The volume rises as students enter the room and quickly shifts to quiet as we establish some order and introduce ourselves.   Dropping into peace discussion an take time, with shy kids who are not used to speaking in class.  This is another interesting topic in today’s world of systemized education.  Being talked to rather than being encouraged to talk and share.   I felt some deeply moving moments today as students expressed their understanding of peace: one from a global and nationalistic perspective and the need for non-violence within and between nations, and another on the importance of inner peace touching on the notion that peace begins in our heart.   This concept is one that I like to get to in every workshop.   Emphasizing that peace does start in our heart and blossoms from the depths of the individual and from there out into the world. With attentive eyes, hearts captured, words flowing effortlessly….inner smile flourishing….I’d hug them all if I could……we move into art making. You can see photos from this workshop and more on our facebook page: