Christopher 2X, a local community activist, says he has seen firsthand how art can bring together community members who don’t typically interact. That’s why he’s helping coordinate Louisville Peace: Piece by Piece, an event designed to respond to violence in the community.
Louisville Peace: Piece by Piece will bring together Louisvillians who’ve lost loved ones to violence, who are gunshot wound survivors, or who have suffered extreme violence — including police officers and first responders. Together, they along with any other interested members of the community, will help tile a table using mosaic pieces inscribed with messages of peace.
The table will then be used as a teaching tool at various community events.
2X points to Ferguson, Missouri as an example of the power of art in peacemaking. During the unrest in Ferguson following the 2014 fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, he took carloads of Louisville community members to Ferguson as a display of solidarity over the course of several months.
“But then in February of 2015, we made a special request for the Tibetan monks, the traveling monks — the artists — to go to Ferguson, Missouri with us,” 2X says.
He is referring to the monks of the Drepung Gomang Monastery in India. They were touring the United States on the Sacred Tibetan Arts Tour at the time. While in Ferguson, the monks created a sand mandala art piece.
“It was more or less about going to Ferguson to make an art piece for the children of Ferguson,” he says. “And the art piece complemented everything we were doing on the ground to add to the equation of trying to create dialogue, experiences, examples of peace that people could share and be a part of.”
2X says the project brought together law enforcement officials, children from Ferguson, and adults from the community, as well. Typically the mandalas are dissolved after a few days.
“But that art piece is still in a permanent place in Greater St. Mark Family Church,” he says.
According to 2X, the experience was key in starting dialogue and reestablishing trust among many members of the Ferguson community. It’s something he hopes the Louisville peace event will catalyze in the wake of over 80 homicides this year within the city.
Anne Walter, the director of the Drepung Gomang Center for Engaging Compassion, agrees.
“Louisville Peace: Piece by Piece is a bridge-building opportunity in our community,” Walter says. “It brings together people who have been terribly hurt by violence to create something beautiful, which is a symbol of what we want our world to grow into.”
Louisville Peace: Piece by Piece will take place Saturday, Sept. 24 at 1619 FLUX, an arts and activism space in the Portland neighborhood. It is part of the Twelve Days Toward Peace (Sept. 21 to Oct. 2), an initiative of Louisville’s Drepung Gomang Center for Engaging Compassion.
Mayor Greg Fischer and LMPD Chief of Police Steve Conrad are also helping organize the event. More information can be found here.