United States 18 June: Kingston, WA

Expressions of Peace from Kingston, WA

The Sri Chinmoy Peace Run Team visited Kingston Middle School in 2018 and was enthusiastically welcomed by the entire school. Diane Stewart (she often spells her name StewART) from Kingston Middle School is the Art, Ceramics, Social Studies, and World Languages Instructor. Under her guidance and leadership the students created a peace pole, and honored the Peace Run Team by gifting them with 1000 paper cranes made by the Art and Ceramic students at Kingston Middle School.
Diane said, “In my classroom every year, I remind my students how one person can make a difference in the lives of others and promote peace. The simplest of ways to promote Peace is through smiling, smile at each other, smile at strangers, invite strangers to eat at your lunch table or hang out after lunch together, or maybe use your voice to speak up when you see injustice or speak up for those that can’t speak for themselves like animals, small children, the earth, create peace when ever you can, where ever you go. Art about Peace can make a different. This pole shows my students making a peaceful difference. The peace pole has three languages on it: English, S’Klallam and Lushootseed each says PEACE or something very close to that. The Lushootseed language and Klallam languages are here to represent the Port Gamble S’Klallam and Suquamish tribes whose children attend our schools and the native ancestral land this school is on. English represents the majority of the students in our school. Each subsequent pole will have different languages.”

What got me started doing Peace Art with students? I’ve always wanted people to get along with one another and have never understood why people would want to fight or cause harm. I grew up with an uncle in Vietnam and saw it on the news as a child. To purposely cause harm or destruction truly baffles me. While at Washington State University, when I went back to get a teaching certificate, I belonged to a lunch group called: Waging Peace. A professor suggested I write some curriculum around the idea of Peace. I regret not doing that, I got caught up in environmental issues instead. Then, as the Vinland Elementary Art Specialist from 2000-2006, I had a theater acquaintance, Mr. Nicholson, ask me to have students do some art work on the theme, “What Peace Means to Me” for a video that he was making. This got me back on the “Peace Train” if I may lovingly quote Cat Stevens.

In 2008 Diane visited Hiroshima, Japan with a group of 19 educators. She wrote of her trip in a piece titled “Pages of Peace, Bear Witness.” Hiroshima had a tremendous impact on her and reinforced her commitment to peace. She said, “Off to the right of the Cenotaph about two hundred feet, I happened upon a lovely water fountain, an inviting place to rest. Mesmerized by the intoxicating smell of the six olive trees that are around it and the sound of splashing water onto rocks, I sit. I look. I observe. I realize I sit in an architectural spiral, a granite wall curves behind the fountain. Spirals represent life everlasting and fertility to me. I fervently write in my journal as tears burst as if to keep up with the water fountain. A bird drinks from the water. I sip my water. I think about water, the cycle of it, how it is dispersed throughout the earth. Eventually, what is rain in my hometown becomes rain in a town in another country as clouds drift and let go of the rain. Maybe peace could be like that.”
In her journal, she wrote: “I experienced it alone because I had to. Tears flowing. I can clearly visualize the death and destruction…it’s no longer a page in a history book. And yet, I am moved to tears really because of the message of peace that is screamed out by every drop of water every whiff of olive air. Olive trees, spiraling peace, water fountain, flow of peace, cleans air from the smell of death…6 trees, water makes it around the whole Earth, why can’t peace?” She realizes then and there that she has to tell the world about the fountain and beauty of Hiroshima.
She says, “Thanks to Mr. Matsushima. As I listened to him talk about his unbridled hope for world peace, I am truly humbled that he holds the bomb responsible for the devastation, not Americans. I have the deepest respect and admiration for his ability to look beyond the hell he witnessed and share with countless groups of people his desire to fight against further bomb building. He is one of those individuals that perhaps know all too well the tremendous difference ONE person can make in the world. I am profoundly changed having met his acquaintance. This experience is significant because it has stirred up my feelings about peace again, and I realize I am now in the perfect place to teach about peace in a creative way since I am an art teacher.”
In November 2018, Diane Stewart and a student Sophia attended a Celebrating Peace luncheon at the Lion’s Club. Sophia won for her Kindness Matters poster and Diane presented the Lion’s Club Peace Poster Liaison with the Curator of Peace 2019 award. While presenting this award, Diane said, “In his effort to bring community into the schools, he gives our students a reason to respond creatively to a prompt every year. More importantly, giving them a voice to discuss the idea of PEACE, the beauty of Peace, the future of Peace and this year the Kindness of Peace. I believe that creating public works of ART that are about peace gives people time to pause for peace, just like Karl does with his effort to make sure our middle schools have a poster contest and for that, I thank you.”

"Kindness Matters" created by Sophia.

Sophia receives honors from Lions Club for her peace poster. Left to right-Diane Stewart, Sophia and Lions Club Peace Poster Liaison.

In 2020, due to current health concerns we have adapted our Peace Run Relays to Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home (Run at Home) Peace Runs in Europe and North America. This means our teams of volunteers are dedicating miles run in their neighborhoods to Peace Runs they would have been a part of. We are also contacting our friends about being part of Expressions of Peace, which is a way for teachers and students to share how they feel about Peace. When we contacted Diane, she enthusiastically agreed and wanted to participate. Her students prepared the following.

A beautiful picture of light.

This is my grandpa with all of the wives of his sons and my aunt’s husband. Notice there are Hispanic and white people in my family, we are all accepted.

This is my family. This is my grandfather with all of his children, my father is the man in the white shirt on the left, standing up.

This is my grandpa with all of the grandkids, I am the boy in the front right. There are boys, there are girls, there are white kids and Hispanic kids. We don’t see color, we see family. This is peace to me.

To light a torch for peace all you have to do is enlighten someone else with encouragement, love and respect. Mathias

I chose to paint the picture that my brother took of my family holding a torch. Our hands represent different looking people working together to have peace in the world. The flames of the torch represent the light that shows us the way to peace. We can bring peace to the world if we work together.

"This is my torch with a colorful flame. On the front you see the original 13 colony flag. On the back is the LGBTQ flag.

There is a white hand holding the torch,

And there is a Black hand holding the torch. This torch represents everyone. People should not be treated differently because of the way they talk or their culture." ~Cheyenne

And finally something that the KMS Art Teacher Diane StewART built with stray items in her garden.

"This is my torch" explains Cheyenne in this beautiful and inclusive expression of peace.

Gabriel made a beautiful and creative torch with a surprise pop up in this video.

Jacob explains how his torch stands for unity, inclusion and equality.