“Pieces for Peace”: Children’s Artwork Shows What Peace Looks Like

As part of Moravian University’s InFocus programming on War and Peace, the HUB hosted the CITYarts “Pieces for Peace” traveling exhibition from November 1 – 15.

The collection of youth artworks travels nationally and internationally as part of the Young Minds Build Bridges program.

According to its website, CITYarts is a “nonprofit public arts and education organization founded in 1989.” Its mission is to connect youths with professional artists, allowing children across the world to create public art and help them become active members of their community. Its founder, executive, and creative director Tsipi Ben-Haim wished for youths’ voices to be heard and is credited with starting today’s community mural movement in New York City. In her own words, “when kids create, they do not destroy.” 

CITYarts’s Young Minds Build Bridges program “facilitates intercultural understanding and connection among young people of different home countries,” according to its mission statement. The “Pieces for Peace” exhibition contains 300 selected artworks from a project of the same name. Workshops ask youths to create art that responds to the question, “What does peace look like to me?” Children from 1,500 schools and organizations in 104 countries have produced over 10,000 artworks, which can be viewed on the CITYarts website.

Owing to the origins of CITYarts, the “Pieces for Peace” exhibition can most frequently be seen in New York City, although it never stays in the same place twice. Aside from Pennsylvania, it has also made trips within the United States to Connecticut and New Jersey. Since 2007, the exhibition has gone global, appearing in countries such as Spain, Egypt, Greece, Israel, and Slovenia.

The pieces themselves are varied, beautiful, and inspiring. Every participant in the program illustrates their own vision for peace, in their own way. Some works in this gallery show symbolism to great effect.

One illustration by Duc, a 12-year-old from Vietnam, shows a whole pencil and labels it “Peace.” Below it is the same pencil, but it has been severed in two, and is labeled “War.” The two halves of the cracked pencil are then shown again but resharpened, and once again labeled “Peace.” As a whole, this artwork demonstrates how war tears people and countries apart, yet there is nothing that cannot be rebuilt from the remains. 

Other works are much more blatant in their message but still effective in their conveyance.

A piece by Lida-Maija Terho, a 16-year-old from Finland, for example, shows children holding a public protest, with one in front holding a large sign that says, “FUTURE for KIDS.”

Another work, this one by the 12-year-old Floris Reybrouck from Belgium, is divided into two sides, War and Peace, with a Yin-Yang symbol between them. The War side contains a bleak depiction of modern warfare, with monochrome bomber planes, tanks, and infantrymen wreaking havoc and shedding blood. The Peace side is full of color, with a vibrant countryside, birds in the air, and a large white peace sign.

Finally, Nicole Ahren, a 16-year-old from Israel, painted a perfect scene of sunlight streaming into the ocean, forming a peace sign on the seafloor. 12-year-old Fatima Borda from Bolivia created a mosaic-like masterpiece depicting two people working together in a mountainous region to plant a tree. 

These young artists have talent — and more will soon join their ranks. CITYarts held workshops in the Bethlehem area in early November, and the resulting artworks were shown in the HUB alongside the “Pieces for Peace” gallery. Giving kids opportunities such as these allows them to grow as people, and help secure a better future for themselves.