By Laurie Marshall (with Aida Topić), Peace Ambassadors
I took the first Peace Ambassador Training program and loved the clarity of the Five Pillars and meeting such inspiring peace leaders - both the speakers and fellow participants. Through the stories and practices of the class, I gained language, frameworks and hope for the reality of the successful transformation of conflict. The training solidified my commitment to use art as a peacebuilding tool for young people through my non-profit, Unity Through Creativity, which has since merged with Create Peace Project, based in San Francisco.
I recommended the training to Aida Topić, a young mother and activist who lives in Sarajevo. We met in 1995 when she was 16 and her family came to the United States during the Bosnian war. Having returned to her native country where she co-founded an arts-for-peace-and -prosperity non-profit called ART GRUPA. Aida took the training, which also gave her valuable tools.
Almost twenty years after Aida and I met, I am thrilled to now be applying our Peace Ambassador Training to a deeply moving collaboration. Aida and I are bringing the practice of arts-for-peace building to the historic Sarajevo Peace Event this June 6-9th. We are sending a message that creativity and community are the way to handle conflict from the place World War I began 100 years ago. Aida is the coordinator of the Sarajevo Peace Event. How great is that! Over 22 countries will be represented and at least 500 youth will be trained at the conference. Create Peace Project is partnering with Art Grupa the month before the conference to do a Peace Postcard Exchange between 5000 youth in Bosnia and the U.S. We will also co-create a youth-led collaborative Singing Tree mural as part of the Peace Event. 32 Singing Trees, made by over 14,000 people in 50 countries. To view it, click here. Our goal is for the mural to be installed in the government Canton Building, which was burned down in February, 2014.
At right: Madrone Singing Tree of Vision to Action, youth-led mural made for Bioneers, 8’ x 12’
An Indiegogo campaign is raising funds for young Bosnian artists to be trained and paid, as well as for transportation between San Francisco and Sarajevo, art supplies, the implementation of the Peace Postcard Exchange and making a film about the experience. (To learn more about the Indiegogo campaign, click here.)
Aida and I join the hundreds of people participating in this event to send a message that this Century will be a time of Peace and Prosperity for All. Thank you to our Peace Ambassador Training which promotes a healthy global eco-system of inspiration and commitment to this vision.
Laurie Marshall, lead artist and program manager for Create Peace Project, has been using collaborative art to build consensus, inclusive community and democratic health for over 40 years. She has served NASA, the Global Innovation Summit, Women and Innovation Lab, the UN, the U.S. Botanical Garden, public and Waldorf schools, hospices and prisons. She is a certified art and social studies teacher who specializes in project-based learning and arts integration, empowering youth to help heal the world.
After 15 years of working in democracy development with international organizations in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Aida Topić co-founded and is currently the President of an arts and culture nonprofit in Sarajevo ART GRUPA. “ART GRUPA” reflects all of Aida’s values and principles; its programs are developed and implemented by activists and artists who are devoted to utilizing arts and culture as a powerful tool towards achieving social, economic, environmental and cultural prosperity in BiH. In an effort to learn about and develop arts as peace-building programs for youth in Bosnia, Aida contacted a childhood mentor and long-time friend Laurie Marshall. Laurie advised Aida to take the Peace Ambassador training as a starting point. This wonderful training and Laurie inspired Aida to reach out more actively to other reconciliation and peace-building programs in BiH. As a result, Aida is currently in charge of the Coordination Team of the international Peace Event Sarajevo 2014. Aida continues to learn about arts as peace-building from Laurie, as they jointly develop the Sarajevo Singing Tree project, a collaborative mural that will be created by Laurie and 20-30 students of the School of Applied Arts Sarajevo, and include thousands of participants in the Peace Event Sarajevo 2014.
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This article appears in:
2014 Catalyst, Issue 6: Peace Ambassadors for the 21st Century