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Brandeis University | International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life
Peacebuilding and the Arts: Exploring the contributions of arts and culture to peace
Notes from the Director
January 2020

Dear friends of Brandeis’ Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts,

Greetings from a cold January in New England. Since our last newsletter in April 2019, there have been many developments at Brandeis, with the IMPACT initiative, and in the global arts, culture and conflict transformation ecosystem. We are aiming for more frequent editions of PBA-Now in the coming year.

At Brandeis, we are excited to welcome Dr. Toni Shapiro-Phim to join Dr. Thomas King in co-chairing the faculty of our undergraduate minor in Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation and to serve as assistant director of the Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts. She brings extensive experience as a scholar/practitioner, as well as particular expertise in dance and human rights, in part through a new course, Dance and Migration. Dr. Shapiro-Phim was featured in the Fall 2019 issue of Brandeis’ State of the Arts magazine, pp.22-23.

During the fall semester, Brandeis University awarded the the Gittler Award to Dr. John Paul Lederach, the distinguished conflict transformation scholar/practitioner and senior fellow at Humanity United. In addition to joining several classes and conversations with students and faculty, he delivered a keynote address, and was interviewed by Dr. Toni Shapiro-Phim.

We are also excited to share news about IMPACT: The Imagining Together Platform for Arts, Culture and Conflict Transformation. Last spring, IMPACT published its second major report, Imagine IMPACT: an emerging strategy to strengthen the arts, culture and conflict transformation ecosystem. In July, we participated in a webinar hosted by the International Teaching Artists Collaborative. In October, on the Brandeis campus, IMPACT hosted a groundbreaking  gathering of artists, researchers and funders. Meanwhile, IMPACT participants from various regions of the world are convening groups of artists, researchers and funders to think together about how a regional IMPACT presence might serve them. Stories from convenings at Brandeis and in Nicosia and Mindanao follow this letter.  

In the coming months, IMPACT plans to lead sessions at the Arts-At-Risk conference in Zurich, the International Community Arts Festival in Rotterdam in March, and, in partnership with Peace Direct, in on-line learning exchanges. Details below.

The Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts at Brandeis is undertaking a re-launch of the documentary and toolkit Acting Together on the World Stage: Resources for Continuing the Conversation. Working with Acting Together filmmaker Allison Lund, we are creating a vibrant new website that will allow users to download the documentary and access both print and audiovisual resources online. Details are coming soon, so stay tuned.

Creative approaches to the quest for justice and to the major challenges of the twenty-first century abound in communities throughout the world. In this issue of Peacebuilding and the Arts Now, and on our website, we highlight the artistic and cultural dimensions of protest movements around the world.

This new year seems filled with challenges, each screaming out for creative attention and care. Thank you for all of the work you are doing in the arts, culture and conflict transformation ecosystem, engaging communities locally and globally.

Best wishes,

Cynthia E. Cohen, Ph.D., Director
Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts
IMPACT Highlights
IMPACT Strategy Gathering
Oct 30 - Nov 1, 2019
IMPACT’s advocacy team joined with the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life and the Sillerman Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy from Oct 30 - Nov 1, 2019 at Brandeis University. This gathering brought together 20 funding professionals, artists and researchers to develop creative, feasible strategies for strengthening the acct ecosystem. Support for the event came from Brandeis University’s Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts, the Fresh Sound Foundation, the Max and Sunny Howard Foundation and individual donors. Read the summary and learn about the participants (bios of the participants and blurbs about participating organizations) in this event.

Regional Convenings
“Arts and Community”

Discussion in the context of the Buffer Fringe Performing Arts Festival 
Saturday, October 26, 2019
Ledra Palace Buffer Zone, Nicosia

By Ellada Evangelou
The Buffer Fringe Festival hosted a discussion with the participation of artists, community workers, arts practitioners, academics and policy-makers, to discuss what makes arts in community relevant, necessary and challenging. The discussion took place in the Ledra Palace buffer zone, between the two sides of the separated communities of the island. The format was “Long Table” which enabled the engagement of the audience along with the speakers in a semi-formal ‘brunch table’ setting.

The discussion related issues of arts and community, starting from the local and moving to the global, thinking about innovation and the avant garde, discussing about interactions and participation, and how we can connect as artists and community workers.  A number of speakers joined us to answer the key questions and start the discussion:

Nurtane Karagil (fine artist - Cyprus), Dijana Milosevic (theatre artist & artistic director – Serbia), Helene Black (curator – artist, Cyprus), Yiannis Colakides (curator – author, Cyprus), Hanna Knell (artistic director, Germany), Lee Perlman, PhD (author - researcher, Israel), Elena Agathokleous (actress - artistic director, Cyprus), Izel Seylani (actor – artistic director, Cyprus). Actor and activist Diomedes Koufteros moderated the session.

The event was organized by Buffer Fringe Artistic Director, and IMPACT Leadership Circle member, Ellada Evangelou.

The discussion generated creative thinking around the relationship between arts and community with a focus on the Cypriot context and ways that the arts can engage communities to be active agents of societal transformation. The role of the buffer zone and other in-between spaces were considered in the discussion along with the role that arts can play in creating community engagement and how it can be understood as a form of living.
Lee Perlman, PhD, author, researcher (Israel)
“The Buffer Fringe was an extraordinary example of community and artist based conflict transformation, in action. It was an inspiring event on so many levels: first and foremost artistically. Experiencing diverse performance art, other performance forms and installations within and outside of the Buffer Zone, created by local artists and others from the region, including Lebanon and Israel, was remarkable, but also jarring, amid the UN patrolled area. I was also really taken by the spirit of collaboration and broad circles of participation of artists, activists, university students and other young people, festival volunteers, from North and South. As part of the long-table, it was a privilege to learn more the local artists-activists and scholars perspectives on their work and along with my IMPACT colleague, Dijana, frame a conversation about the potential- role of regional or global networks in ‘arts and community’ practices”.
Dijana Milosevic (theatre artist & artistic director – Serbia)
“I came back from the Buffer Fringe Festival being very moved and inspired. The space where the Festival took place was, beside few venues, very much "in the buffer zone, just in between the borders that divide Nicosia in two parts-Turkish and Greek. The effect of such placement of the Festival was the sense of connectedness, even surrounded by wires and check points. Many visual art installations, small performances, movie screenings, concerts, open mic stage, exhibitions, exploring the topic of the "buffer zone" and of "the other" offered the space for meeting, expressing different viewpoints in the safe surroundings. It was the celebration of the power of art in healing the society, giving the possibility of exploring untold histories, the stories that were not heard, and generating ideas about how, in the future, to move on from the space of pain”.

Mindanao, Philippines:
“Strengthening Intergenerational Ties: A Progress Report”
By Christine Vertucci
10 January 2020
Between May-August 2019, the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute (MPI)  convened a series of meetings of cultural workers and peacebuilder in Mindanao, Philippines to discuss IMPACT (Imaging Together A Platform for Arts, Culture and Conflict Transformation) and their engagement in this ecosystem. Babu Ayindo, an arts and peacebuilding practitioner and IMPACT Steering Committee member co-facilitated the first meeting on May 25 together with Christine Vertucci, the Director of MPI and one of the participants of IMPACT Design Lab.
Participants shared about their work in the performing arts and the challenges they have faced over the years; how they have used arts and storytelling to process trauma and the need for a platform for artists and peacebuilders to come together. A participant who is an indigenous person spoke about how she uses theater to engage young people in her community to understand and appreciate their own culture. Another participant who is a teacher believes that through the performing arts, young people not only become aware of their own culture, but also are able to explore ways to inform the world about Mindanao culture.
In July MPI hosted the second meeting of South East Asia regional hub with cultural workers and peacebuilding practitioners (both those who attended the first meeting and new participants). Out of this meeting came a proposal to have an Arts and Peacebuilding Training for 15 to 20 young artists in the Davao City area. Its objectives were defined as: 1) to engage youth in creative activities as a way to raise their awareness about social issues and provide entry points to lead them to work for social change/justice through art forms that are attractive to this generation of young people; and 2) to provide a venue for the older generation of cultural workers/artists/performers/cultural activists, who are no longer engaged in groups and/or collectives, to re-engage with each other. The output of this training was to be a theatrical production to be presented at the end of 2019 during the Mindanao Week of Peace.
Work on planning and conceptualizing the training program continued through July and August under the coordination of MPI but it has not yet materialized. The plan is still in the agenda of MPI and the South-East Asia regional hub and waits for the right moment to be carried on.
Upcoming: ICAF
Photo credit: ICAF
ICAF: International Community Arts Festival
March 25-29, 2020
Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Every three years at the end of March, a temporary, creative world emerges in Rotterdam filled with unique community-based art projects and artists aiming to create bridges between people from all walks of life. The International Community Arts Festival (ICAF) draws theatre, dance, music, film, and visual arts projects from every continent. It is built around the idea that community art is a worldwide, cutting edge, and highly relevant arts movement.  

The festival program offers in-depth conversations, inspiration, and exchanges during the days. The evenings are chock full with live theater, dance, film and music performances. The eighth edition of ICAF will take place from March 25 to 29, 2020.  

On Thursday, March 26, 2020, IMPACT will co-host with The Porticus Community Arts Lab and the British Council a session entitled Artists and Funders Exchange: Strengthening work at the nexus of community-based arts and conflict transformation. We will open a space for generative conversation about strengthening trust among funders, artists, researchers, and cultural workers. We will also think together about questions for a global virtual learning exchange among funders active in the arts, culture, and conflict transformation space, considering questions such as:  What can we learn from deeply listening and sharing perspectives on funding for arts, culture, and conflict transformation? How can we strengthen the relationship between community artists and philanthropists in working on conflict transformation? How can we dive deeper on the funding topics like system change, decolonizing wealth, instrumentalization of the arts, and beyond?  

On Friday, March 27, 2020, IMPACT will host another session entitled Strengthening practice through local and global networks: the Imagining Together Platform for Arts, Culture and Conflict and Conflict Transformation (IMPACT) ecosystem. Conflict dynamics around the globe endure and intensify (including violent extremism, gender-based violence, and marginalization of indigenous knowledge systems) while new conflicts emerge from planetary destruction and the effects of technology on human interaction. Effective and ethical local and global responses to these 21st century challenges require new and creative paradigms for thinking, acting and reflecting together, for cultivating capacities, and for advocating for change. Yet, the under-resourced nature of community arts initiatives means that the potential constructive impacts of arts, culture, and conflict transformation work are not fully harnessed. In this session, we will feel the collective pulse of those at the nexus of community arts and conflict transformation. How can we connect - both locally and globally - in ways that strengthen our abilities to support our communities and address 21st century challenges?

Learn more about the 2020 ICAF

IMPACT is planning two virtual learning exchanges in the upcoming months on Peace Insight platform launched by Peace Direct. The learning exchanges allow people from across the globe, in their own time zones, to contribute their thoughts in writing to questions we pose and to each other’s responses.
The first 48-hour virtual learning exchange in both English and Spanish will take place on April 21st and 22nd as an introduction to the ecosystem of arts, culture, and conflict transformation (acct). Artists, cultural workers, conflict transformation practitioners, researchers, funders and policy-makers are invited to explore key concepts in the acct ecosystem: resistance, re-humanization, reconciliation, conflict transformation and moral imagination. Drawing on the resources of Acting Together on the World Stage, we will explore these concepts in relation to performance, and extend an invitation to participants to share work in other media  as well.

Interested in participating? Send an email with a brief introduction to Armine Avetisyan at to RSVP.
A second virtual learning exchange in English and French, to be held in May, will focus on creative responses to gender-based violence throughout Africa. The learning exchange will create a space for the local communities, institutions, artists, cultural leaders, researchers and practitioners from the various parts of the continent to support one another by sharing their stories, their cultural and artistic practices, and resources. Stay tuned for the details on the IMPACT website.
Artistic and cultural dimensions of protest movements around the globe
Photo credit: Holmes Chan/HKFP
100 days in: Ten creative ways Hongkongers sustain their protests away from the barricades 
Hong Kong Free Press
“From laser pen light shows, to flashmob singalongs and human chains, we look at some of the inventive methods embraced by a movement that shows no signs of abating...”

Hong Kong Protest Art. Here Are Some Examples of Their Work
“A local designer who goes by the name Phesti borrowed from the imagery of local subway signs to create a logo of figures holding hands... The image quickly went viral. Phesti says his designs are for ‘people like me, who are in the peaceful camp don’t dare to protest on the front line and engage in more aggressive action.’ He hopes the work will make such individuals ‘feel like they can still participate in something and find a way of saying what’s on their mind.’”

Creativity at the Service of Social Mobilization in Chile
“Artistic expression is not only central to the protests in Chile—it's part of a long national tradition of resistance… Examples of these manifestations range from music and performance to murals, installations, comics, street and body art, and graffiti, all overlapping within the appropriation of public space....”

How are Lebanese protesters using art to express their views? 
“Against the backdrop of Lebanon’s political protests, which began in October, a creative and musical art scene emerged. Spray-painting a picture of the country’s socio-political landscape is a muralist who goes by the name, Exist… ‘In a community that has been restricted culturally and financially, I think it’s about time to say we don’t want, like slavery,’ says the graffiti and street-artist. ‘We wrote about our revolution, that’s where culture comes out of, you know, our struggles...’”

Lebanese Art Community Joins Unprecedented Protests 
“As artists discuss the role of contemporary art in times of revolution and rally on the streets, 20 leading arts organizations issued a statement of solidarity with protesters across Lebanon...”

Read more news, arts and resources from the field around the theme of artistic/cultural dimensions of protest movements around the globe.
Resources & Opportunities
Image credit: Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Video by Ryon Horne/AJC
VIDEO: Interfaith Reconciliation Ceremony in Atlanta featuring Jane Sapp
Watch a performance by Jane from September 2019 in DeKalb County, Georgia at an Interfaith Reconciliation Service "with roughly 200 people in attendance pledging to tell the truth about DeKalb’s history of racial injustices and to address issues that linger today."
For more on Jane Sapp new book and podcast, visit 

Article: “Let’s Make a Better World: Policy implications of the cultural work practice of Jane Sapp” By Cynthia Cohen
Arts Education Policy Review 

ITAC Collaborative launches a new purpose built website
The ITAC Collaborative, the first international network for the participatory arts. ITAC asked artists who work in community and school settings around the world what the biggest issues they faced in their careers were. Then, collated those responses and designed a website which could begin to address their concerns. View the website and read the full press release.

New 1927 Collaboration Hub from Between the Seas
Between the Seas launched 1927, a beautiful art deco space in downtown Athens, a new meeting point for research and culture. Their vision is for 1927 to become an independent hub for international exchanges, collaborations and laboratory work, emphasizing process over product and bridging theory and artistic practice. 

Inaugural Women Building Peace Award
Deadline: February 14, 2020 
History has shown that civil resistance is most successful when women are engaged, peace processes are more likely to last when women are involved, and a country’s propensity for conflict is lower with higher levels of gender equality. The Women Building Peace Award represents the Institute’s commitment to highlighting the vital role of individual women who are working every day in fragile or conflict-affected countries or regions in the pursuit of peace. The award will honor a woman peacebuilder whose substantial and practical contribution to peace is an inspiration and guiding light for future women peacebuilders.

Film: Dancing With the Cannibal Giant 
Dancing With the Cannibal Giant: Five New Stories for the Great Transition is a documentary film portraying five remarkable stories of people and places transforming the world. Narrated by Penobscot elder, Sherri Mitchell (Weh’na Ha’mu Kwasset), we are introduced to the Penobscot mythology of the cannibal giant: a creature awakened by the destruction of mother earth. The film is told through the lens of this powerful prophecy: only if people can awaken to their own destruction, and the need for change, will the cannibal giant be put back to sleep.

Video: Fate, Family and the Floundering of a Friendship 
The century old Turkish-Armenian conflict is encapsulated through the personal story of Apo Torosyan, a multi-ethnic artist from Massachusetts.

Earth Systems Journey 
Earth Systems Journey (ESJ) is a curriculum framework for art-led, experiential, place-based environmental education about environmental flows, (such as water, air, energy or material) through a school building and grounds or other learning environment. ESJ is an approach that teaches ecological and environmental content, principles, analysis and decision skills in ways that shows how human-engineered systems are integrated with natural systems.

Book - Locked On!: The Seventh and Most Illegal in the Hitch-hiker’s Guide Trilogy
By Marty Branagan
“Ever wondered what it’s like to feel so strongly about an issue that you’ll go to jail for it? This novel, based on real-life environmental blockades but set within a humorous sci-fi universe, is a journey to the centre of nonviolent civil disobedience by an author who has been there repeatedly over decades. In a hilarious romp through the universe we meet eco-pirates, space heroines, Indigenous people and farmers united against corporate greed, corrupt governments and environmental destruction…” Available in book
and e-book.

El Paro Nacional: Stories of Resistance & Healing
October 25, 2019
Quito, Ecuador
“...widespread protests led by an indigenous movement brought the nation to a standstill. These protests were sparked by a government decree that removed subsidies on oil prices overnight in order to comply with the conditions of an IMF loan....Many members of the Pachaysana family played a role during the protests…”

Paper: "Futures learning: Notes from the global field of arts, culture and conflict transformation." By Mary Ann Hunter and the IMPACT Initiative University of Tasmania, 2019.

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Check out the seven-episode podcast that accompanies
Let’s Make a Better World: Stories and Songs by Jane Sapp

In Episode 5 Jane Wilburn Sapp and Cindy Cohen explore themes of Music and Human Rights with lgbtq, women’s rights activist, and author Suzanne Pharr. The episode includes renditions of “If You Miss Me From the Back of the Bus,” and Jane’s hymn-like arrangement of “Ain’t You Got a Right.”

In this political moment, where so much has been challenged and so much danger lies ahead, we are going to have to reach deep for the things of the spirit. The role of cultural workers like you, Jane, will be more important than ever...What does the Tree of Life look like? It’s not a tree of oppression, not a tree of division. It’s not a tree of chastity. It’s a tree of abundance. It’s a tree of equal worth…For me, it has a tremendous power as things become hard. That’s when I think we have to ask that question and sing that song a lot. – Suzanne Pharr

Let’s Make a Better World: Stories and Songs by Jane Sapp itself can be ordered through
Peacebuilding and the Arts Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts
International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life
Brandeis University
415 South Street | MS 086 | Waltham, MA 02454-9110

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