The art of sharing peace

Creating art is often a solitary practice, so it may seem strange to think of it as being community-building and peace-making. Thankfully, it can be just that. I am perpetually surrounded with positive projects, people, and inspiration. Instead of lamenting my isolation as an artist and living the starving artist lifestyle, I’ve been able to extend my work beyond my solitary studio. I use my skills and time to help inspire, change, and build community through Ames Collaborative Art (Ames C.Art) with workshops, meet-ups (meetings) and large-scale community art projects.

Sharing something as simple as the best way to tie off an end while sewing or how to make a straight line with a brush builds understanding. And it’s this understanding, this foundation of future friendships, that builds peace, one stitch at a time, one person at a time. Through art classes and community art projects, we begin to see each other not as strangers, but as “the lady who showed me how to clean my brush” or “the guy who taught me to knit”.

The possibilities for community building are endless. Currently I’m focusing on sharing my time and skills to empower and enrich others’ lives. The projects we master in workshops help participants build confidence to share their own talents. Whether we realize it or not, we each have our own unique artistic talents to share. We can each inspire others. While it’s just one small piece of the community puzzle, each time we invite everyone to participate and share what they know, we are building confidence, opportunities, and friendships. It starts with you and me and grows to “we”.

The more we focus on art projects that include people, the more we will encourage respect for each other. Art can help heal old wounds by offering an outlet for that wordless pain we all carry. By healing ourselves and sharing our new strength, we help build a better foundation for our community.

This past year I designed and coordinated a community mural on the corner of Chamberlain and Welch in Ames. This collaborative mural project was an entirely volunteer-driven effort intended to bring different populations of the Ames community together: school age children, college students, university staff, city residents, and local artists. We mobilized residents from throughout the community to make this mural a reality, and now everyone can enjoy it.

Bringing people together around a large art project allows them the opportunity to meet others, participate in something larger than themselves, learn new skills, and be inspired and empowered by the experience. There is nothing better than seeing people who have never met working side-by-side to create art.

By fostering the joining together of diverse members of the community, we created a piece of public art which everyone can enjoy and which will encourage pride in and celebration of the Ames community. I’m excited for our next large public project in two years. For now, our monthly workshops and meetups are all geared towards fostering creative growth, community, and by extension, peace. I hope you will join in!

Kristin Roach graduated with a BFA in painting in 2008 and is currently teaching art classes, organizing community art programs, and inspiring others to live life creatively through her website CraftLeftovers.com and local art organization Ames C.Art (http://amescart.org). She has been published in Interweave Knits, KnitScene, Craft, Button it Up by Susan Beal, and is currently working on her first book Creative Mending to be published by Storey Publishing and due out 2011.

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