Physical Address

304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124

Youth Artists Advocate for Peace

The untitled piece communicates a deep sense of the warm and enduring joy that emerges when people unite. This is immediately evident through the simplicity of the figures and how effortlessly their joy is conveyed. The colors and gestures speak volumes. Additionally, the objects at their feet offer critical context. This array of discarded weapons symbolizes the violence these figures have triumphed over. They serve as timeless symbols of conflict, spanning from ancient disputes to modern warfare. What possibilities could arise if we set aside these weapons? How might our world transform?

This profound piece is the work of Abigail Turinayo, a 16-year-old artist from Uganda. It’s part of the “Pieces for Peace” exhibition, currently showcased at the Hilles Gallery in Creative Arts Workshop until July 14. According to CITYarts’s website, the project has amassed 12,000 artworks from over 1,500 schools and community organizations in 124 countries. This exhibition has traveled through the United States, Spain, Egypt, Germany, Israel, and Belgium, inspiring seven different outdoor murals in New York, Pakistan, the U.K., Germany, Israel, Spain, and Belgium. CITYarts initiated its 50 States of Peace program in 2023 and has already visited 18 states.

The exhibition primarily functions as a unified collective statement, bringing together the voices of many young people from around the globe. However, individual expressions within this collective are also worth examining. For instance, 17-year-old Samra Fatema from Pakistan illustrates a mother and child accompanied by the poignant message, “peace lies in the eyes of an innocent. Peace lies in the soul of another. Let this innocent grow. Let’s not kill this mother.” This is one of many interpretations of peace motivated by the love of one’s country and fellow humans. Nine-year-old Betlehem Demeke from Ethiopia simply expresses, “Ethiopia is my country,” alongside a drawing of a flower, adding the heartfelt note, “I love you Trishe.” While who or what “Trishe” is might remain ambiguous, it’s the emotion that counts here, going beyond mere patriotism.

Some artists convey their messages visually, such as 12-year-old Balganette from Haiti. Even though words are present, the art itself communicates more than enough. Similarly, a piece by 16-year-old Nicole Ahren from Israel manages to express everything without a single written word.

Displaying in the window of the gallery like Buddhist prayer flags, are pieces created by New Haven-area children in collaboration with the exhibition. The project invites ongoing participation; inside the gallery, a table and chair equipped with crayons, markers, and blank paper await anyone inspired to create more pieces for peace. While the New Haven artists follow the exhibition’s established path, they add a local touch. One piece features a pizza sliced to form a peace sign, creatively captioned “peace-ah!” Others rely purely on visual cues. One drawing shows a hand making a peace sign, and another features two hands clasped together, universally symbolizing friendship.

This art serves as a poignant reminder of a simple, often overlooked truth. Children wishing for peace can easily become a cliche, echoing in how adults try to mediate children’s conflicts: Why can’t you be friends? Why can’t you get along? As we grow older, we learn that conflicts are multifaceted. They involve historical grievances, spiritual and religious differences, economic and philosophical debates, cultural clashes, and ethnic prejudices. Following news and as children around us mature, we often impart what we believe are hard truths about the world’s complexities. We tell them that those in conflicts can’t simply lay down their arms because the issues are too deeply rooted, the losses too significant, the emotions too raw. We become convinced that the ongoing conflict must persist, that it’s too complicated to just stop.

But is that really the case? Are children wrong in their simple longing for peace?

“Pieces for Peace” will be displayed at Creative Arts Workshop, 80 Audubon St., through July 14. For exhibit hours and additional information, visit CAW’s website. To learn more about the Pieces for Peace Project, visit the CITYarts website.

Source: CITYarts