PEACE WALL LIGHTING

SEPTEMBER 21, SATURDAY, ASHLAND LIBRARY – 7 PM –

PEACE WALL LIGHTING CEREMONY

“Shine a Light on Peace”  Peace Wall Lighting Ceremony by Cynthia Bronson

I’m sitting on my deck in the early morning sun, sharing the yard with a gentle mother deer and her two fawns grazing in the grass nearby, and I’m enjoying the lovely flowers in the pots surrounding me.  These little beauties are thriving this year, finally, because I moved them further into the sun.  I simply gave them more light.

Reflecting on this, I’m reminded that we need more light, especially in times of such darkness.  Which brings me to the Ashland Peace Wall, and the effort underway in the community to provide lighting to illuminate its vision and energize its power to bring viewers some inner peace and love into the world?

Originally called the Peace Fence, this Peace Wall is a beautiful collection of colored tiles, mounted on a steel frame in front of the Ashland Library on Siskiyou Blvd.  Each tile on the Wall is a photograph of a banner from the original Peace Fence. But I’m getting ahead of myself.  

The Iraq War was raging on and antiwar activist and artist Jean Bakewell was frustrated and wanted to do something.  She also wanted to do something to honor her brother and sister-in law who had recently died.  As she walked along the railroad chain link fence behind A Street the idea came: Quietly get the word out inviting artists and friends to make peace banners to hang on the fence as a surprise on Mother’s Day.  Excitement and secrecy spread through town and on Mother’s Day 2007 the City witnessed a gathering at the new Peace Fence.  The Peace Choir sang “This Little Light of Mine”, in front of more than 200 beautiful banners for peace, each 3’ x 4’ or more with impassioned pleas for peace and Oneness.  Eventually more banners were made and sent to Ashland from Vietnam Vets, and all over the West Coast, Canada, and Norway.   School children from Ashland and surrounding communities made banners, one with colorful little handprints shining forth to dispel the darkness in the world. And the banners hung proudly until a few of them were stolen and the Fence was subsequently vandalized. The Ashland police pledged more protection and good heartedly stepped up their patrols.  A guest logbook had been placed at the fence for visitors to sign and on it were scrolled in large graffiti letters across two open pages of the book: “ASHLAND GRAFFITI HAS YOUR BACK “.  Someone had pledged themselves to act as Guardians of this Sacred Space. There was no more vandalism for that entire year.

Then early the following year on a cold rainy morning, Jean came upon a scene of devastation. Several banners had been slashed from the fence and stomped into the mud.  Huge hob-nailed boot prints on the paintings testifying to the anger and pain that was felt, made one stagger.  The waves of outrage and grief were palpable in the community.  It was unfathomable.  Jean, the diminutive Brit, pronounced that we must move to transform this act of toxic anger and energy into the energy of love.

Plans and ideas were set in motion to make the Peace Fence into a permanent Peace Wall and hang it in a more accessible public space for the world to see.  All of the banners including the repaired damaged ones were photographed and the new plan was to have ceramic tiles made. Assortments of other items were grouted around the tiles at the Illahe Gallery and Studio with the help of dozens of volunteers over many months.  A steel frame was then engineered into a “wave” of peace.  The City was contacted and after years of planning and raising money, the new artwork would be installed on the sidewalk in front of the Ashland Library.  Fundraising became a way of life with donations, soup sales, grants, and finally a generous anonymous donation that saved the day!  The Installation and Celebration ceremony was held on September 21, 2010 – after a three-year project in the making.    The only thing left to “put the icing on the cake” would be for the Peace Wall to be lit at night.

The time is NOW!  Nine years later you are invited to join us at the lighting ceremony at the Peace Wall to “Shine a Light on Peace.”  The City has given their approval and the lights will be turned on at 7:00 pm Saturday, September 21, on the United Nations declared International Day of Peace!

Peace House has been a long-time partner with the Peace Wall Project and will accept tax deductible online donations for the costs of the lights on their website until August 31st.  When you visit the website to make a donation, you can also watch a video of the original Peace Fence with the banners, and listen to the late Dave Marsten and Tami Marsten singing “We can be kind” in the background! We need your donations of any amount by going to:  www.peacehouse.net/peacewall.  You can also send a check with the

designation to “SLP” and mail to: Peace House, P.O. Box 524, Ashland, OR 97520 Questions? Email: kcutter@charter.net

Cynthia Bronson, a long time Ashland resident, peace activist, artist, member of Lithia Artisans and supporter of the Peace Fence and Peace Wall.

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