"Arts and peacebuilding combined is tremendously powerful," said Frances Miller, the first artist-in-residence. "We are excited for the opportunity to experiment and create new spaces and practices in both fields." Photo by Jon Styer.

Art, Peacebuilding Combine in Exhibition

Eastern Mennonite University’s Visual and Communication Arts (VaCA), in collaboration with the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP), presents artist-in-residence and CJP student Frances Miller and her art/performance installation “Renaming Infinity, in Search of a God Who Looks Like Me,” Saturday, Nov. 5, in the Hartzler Library gallery with live performances at 2 and 4 p.m.

Miller’s show is the first chapter in the gallery’s exhibition series “Creative Instigations: Guided Journeys to Art and Community.”

The series is an experimental process that involves a progression of gallery showings across disciplines and among artists. Each show will draw inspiration from the previous show and each artistic endeavor will serve as a catalyst for the next. In this way, artists will be acting in collaboration with each other throughout a series of presentations rather than creating from an isolated space.

“We are doing this in hopes of fostering creative dialogue through the arts as a way of building community,” said Miller.  “We hope to transform our gallery spaces into vibrant places of interaction rather than distilled spaces that are separate from communal life.  A number of issues important to our community can be explored and re-envisioned within this context.”

“The arts offer peacebuilders unique tools for transforming intractable interpersonal, intercommunal, national and global conflicts – tools that are not currently prevalent or available within the peacebuilding field,” said Lisa Schirch, PhD, founding director of 3P Security. “The task for peacebuilding practitioners is to find strategic ways of incorporating the arts into the work of peacebuilding and to create a space where people in conflict can express themselves, heal themselves, and reconcile themselves through the arts.”

A cutting-edge adventure

“Traditional art programs are becoming more focused on working in community and the peacebuilding world increasingly sees the arts as unique tools for healing and community building,” said Paulette Moore, art galleries director and professor of the practice of media arts and peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University.

VaCA students Susan Alexander and Katie Landis have been working with Miller throughout the fall, creating a blog and series films about the exhibit.  Alexander and Landis will also help shape the next artistic chapter of the series.

“The goal of ’Renaming Infinity,’ is to examine how metaphors about God, especially gendered metaphors, shape our identity, perceptions and resulting life experiences,” said Miller.

On Nov. 5, after the opening performance, individuals will be invited to respond visually and in sharing circles.

Arts and peacebuilding combined is tremendously powerful,” said Miller. “We are excited for the opportunity to experiment and create new spaces and practices in both fields.”

The next chapters of the series will be announced in December.

For more information on the exhibit or the Eastern Mennonite University art galleries contact Moore at paulette.moore@emu.edu or 703-597-7766.