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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
February 2022

Dear friends of Peacebuilding and the Arts and IMPACT. 

Greetings! Welcome to the first issue of Peacebuilding and the Arts Now of the new year. 

The changes churning through our communities and our world seem unrelenting in their pace and complexity, challenging us to negotiate unprecedented uncertainties and to embody qualities of presence we need in order to see and understand. The challenges and opportunities that define this moment are revealing the unique contributions of arts and cultural work – to human resilience, to nourishing creativity, and to solutions to practical challenges faced by our communities. In this issue of PBA Now, we share stories about how artists and cultural workers are responding to the multiple crises we are facing, and also crafting the lenses through which we perceive the world and the questions we need to ask at this time. 

Art Invites! – our lead article – focuses on a section of the large report Invite | Affirm | Evoke | Unleash: How arts and culture contribute to the transformation of complex challenges, completed by IMPACT (Imagining Together Platform for Arts and Conflict Transformation) in August 2021. The report emphasizes that artistic and cultural approaches to change do their work not through coercion and manipulation but rather by issuing invitations to engage – by linking our cognitive, sensory, emotional and spiritual faculties, and through their beauty. Recently, through a story circle and conversation, four members of the Peacebuilding and the Arts community joined me in reflecting on our experiences of art-making and beauty as they relate to the current moment. Our stories touched on challenges of gender-based violence in Argentina, physical barriers and destruction in devastated cities in Afghanistan and Armenia,  racism in the United States, and healthcare and community development in Rwanda. Artistic and cultural processes offered invitations to each of us to simultaneously embrace darkness and light. Moments of beauty engaged more than our rational minds; they lifted spirits and nourished capacities for resilience. 

In relation to the climate crisis and the pandemic, my colleague Dr. Toni Shapiro-Phim highlights the compassionate, creative, practical work being undertaken in the city of New Orleans, a center of vibrant cultural life and one of the cities in the United States most vulnerable to global warming. Among other initiatives, she highlights the inventive work of the Krewe of Red Beans, which reminds us that the pandemic strikes most virulently against the older people who are the primary bearers of our communities’ stories, and our musical, linguistic and other cultural traditions. 

The  need to preserve cultural traditions is also explored in Toni’s second contribution to this issue of PBA Now: the story about the creation of a dance archive for Cambodia and Cambodians based on videotapes she  herself shot in a displaced persons’ camp on the Thai/Cambodian border, and inside Cambodia. She secured funds for the digitization of the full collection of the tapes that remained in her possession, and is engaging the artists who appear in them in discussions about how they should be utilized in the current historical and cultural moment in a country still recovering from the legacy of genocide. 

The Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts is proud to announce the launch of IMPACT, Inc., as an independent, non-profit global organization. Initial details about this important development are outlined below, in an article by Dr. Polly Walker. 

In 2011, the groundbreaking collaboration between Brandeis University and Theatre Without Borders (TWB) resulted in a two-volume anthology, documentary film and toolkit for educators and practitioners. TWB and PBA are joining together again to celebrate the (slightly more than) 10th anniversary of the “Acting Together” series of materials. Details – including invitations from linguistic communities to create translations of the documentary into additional languages – are available in Polly’s second article in this issue.

Meanwhile, the PBA team wishes a year of health and creativity for all our friends, students and colleagues who receive this e-newsletter. The urgencies of the moment make our mutual support and inspiration more important than ever!!


Best wishes,

Cindy Cohen
Director, Peacebuilding and the Arts, Brandeis University

100,000 poems rain down over the city of Guernica, Spain. Seventy Basque and Chilean poets composed pieces that were dropped on this city that had been almost completely destroyed in 1937 by Nazi forces allied with Francisco Franco. Residents balance a traumatic history of the experience of air bombardment with the ability, now, to look to a sky that brings them beauty instead. (Chilean art collective Casagrande; 2004) 
Art Invites!
By Cindy Cohen, Director, Peacebuilding and the Arts, Brandeis University

In 2021, a team of researchers and thought partners affiliated with IMPACT completed a multifaceted inquiry into the contributions of arts and culture to the transformation of complex challenges. The inquiry resulted in a series of research memos synthesized into a report titled Invite|Affirm|Evoke|Unleash. Taken as a whole, the report offers an original framework for understanding the transformative power of artistic and cultural processes.
In 2022, Peacebuilding and the Arts Now will focus on the report’s four themes -- invite, affirm, evoke, unleash -- one theme in each of the four newsletters we intend to produce this year. In this issue, we focus on the transformative power of issuing invitations.
To further explore the relevance of the invitational quality of the arts and culture with the current moment, we convened a small story circle that included Armine Avetisyan and Ameer Shaheed who authored the relevant research memos in the report, along with other members of the extended Peacebuilding and the Arts community, Jane Wilburn Sapp and Victoria Gandini. Our stories and discussion touched on many themes, ranging from our experiences of beauty in nature (especially in listening to birds), to the beauty we experience in moments of connection, to examples of finding beauty in negotiating darkness, to the creation of beauty as a source and a demonstration of resilience in communities facing the most dangerous of circumstances. 
Jane Sapp concluded our conversation with a rendition of the first verse of an old spiritual she learned as a child:

This joy I have: the world didn’t give it to me

This joy I have: the world didn’t give it to me

This joy I have: the world didn’t give it to me

Oh, the world didn’t give it and the world can’t take it away. 

“And then it goes ‘This song that I have’ and it keeps adding those things that are beautiful and spiritual that live inside of you, and those things, yeah, the world can’t take them away.”

Read the full essay, with each section expanded. 
Still from the zoom meeting of the IMPACT Transition Board
IMPACT Launched as an Independent, Global Non-Profit Organization
By Polly O. Walker, Associate Professor Emeritus, Peace and Conflict Studies, Juniata College

The Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts (PBA) at Brandeis University, the executive committee of the IMPACT initiative, and the board of directors of ReCAST, Inc., are pleased to announce the launch of IMPACT (Imagining Together: Platform for Arts, Culture and Conflict Transformation) as an independent, global, non-profit organization committed to strengthening the field of Arts, Culture and Conflict Transformation (ACCT).

Read the full story.
Banner design by Allison Lund
Acting Together Anniversary: A Celebration of Transforming Conflict through Performance
by Polly Walker, Associate Professor Emeritus, Peace and Conflict Studies, Juniata College

The Acting Together Project, a collaboration between the Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts at Brandeis (PBA) and Theatre Without Borders (TWB), is celebrating ten years of performances’ contributions to the creative transformation of conflict. Drawing on the work of courageous and skilled peacebuilders and artists in both organizations, the Acting Together project generated a two-volume anthology, a documentary film, and a toolkit that includes short videos and print resources. The project explored the role of theatre and ritual in transforming conflict in the midst of direct violence, in the aftermath of mass violence and in building more just and inclusive communities. For the last decade, these resources have been integrated into educational, networking and training events in regions around the world. The documentary has been translated into Arabic, Hebrew, Sinhala, Tamil, Spanish and French.

Explore the initiatives planned for the celebration of Acting Together.

Submit a proposal for a translation of the film Acting Together on the World Stage.

Mardi Gras Indians, Super Sunday parade, New Orleans, USA, 2018. Photo by Toni Shapiro-Phim
The climate crisis, COVID-19, and the city of New Orleans, Louisiana (USA)

By Toni Shapiro-Phim, Assistant Director, Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts

“New Orleans is one of the most vulnerable cities in the United States to the impacts of climate change, due to its low elevation, land subsistence rates, sea level rise, and prediction of more intense hurricanes,” according to a report by the National Resources Defense Council. As ocean temperatures climb, devastating floods and catastrophic loss of wetlands will result. New Orleans is also a city with a unique confluence of cultures. Communities of African, Asian, Caribbean, European and Indigenous heritages populate this town of just under 500,000 inhabitants. New Orleans music (jazz, brass bands), architecture (shotgun houses), public rituals/celebrations (Mardi Gras Indian processions), and food (too many cooking styles to list) are recognized the world over as singular and spectacular. And much of this cultural expression, especially that of communities of color, has been threatened again and again, by the effects of the climate crisis, and by the blow of the pandemic.
Treasured African American elders, for example, holders of specialized cultural knowledge that has been fundamental to struggles against enslavement and disenfranchisement, have been particularly vulnerable to COVID-19’s ravages. To address this, an initiative called “Feed the Second Line” was created by the Krewe of Red Beans (a Mardi Gras “team”) to establish a safety net for these culture bearers.

Read the full essay and explore other artistic initiatives addressing climate change and the negative impact of the pandemic in New Orleans.
Chea Samy teaching Ouk Solichumnith, School of Dance, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 1990. Still from a video by Toni Shapiro-Phim
A dance archive for Cambodia and Cambodians

By Toni Shapiro-Phim, Assistant Director of the Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts

In 1989, ten years after the fall of the genocidal regime of the Khmer Rouge (1975-1979, under the leadership of Pol Pot), Cambodians still found themselves engulfed in violence. Hundreds of thousands of those who had fled famine and ongoing war, running across the country’s border to the west with Thailand, ended up in displaced persons’ camps, in a war zone nonetheless. The millions who chose to stay in their homeland were subject to much deprivation as the United States imposed an embargo on Cambodia, seeing as it was governed in coalition with Vietnam at the time, and as the Khmer Rouge, in their almost-four years in power, had destroyed the nation’s infrastructure and starved or otherwise murdered between a quarter and a third of Cambodia’s entire population. They were also subject to a war between various factions fighting against those in power. In that year, 1989, I went to work in the largest Cambodian displaced persons’ camp, situated on Thai soil. And I went into Cambodia to conduct dissertation research beginning in 1990. In both places – sites of chaos and danger and unknown immediate and long-term futures – I found exquisite artistry and a striving to both recreate a heritage that had been decimated by the genocide and continued fighting and displacement, and to imagine and bring into being a future of peace and beauty.

Image © Souleymane Kone, Ciel K. Photo courtesy of Prince Claus Fund
Upcoming Events and Opportunities

The 2022 open call for the Prince Claus Seed Awards 
Deadline: March 1, 2022
Annually recognizing 100 emerging artists and cultural practitioners, the Awards create space for experimentation and development of new perspectives on societal challenges.

Peace Research Grants
Deadline for Cycle 1: February 28
International Peace Research Association (IPRA)
The IPRA Foundation works to advance the field of peace research through rigorous investigation into the causes of conflict and examination of alternatives to violence. Peace researchers inform peace activities that inspire visions of a peaceful world. The IPRA Foundation has awarded grants to help fund peace research projects in places as diverse as Argentina, Bosnia, the United States, the Middle East, the Philippines, the Punjab, and Uganda. 

National Endowment for the Arts Research Awards (USA)
Deadline: March 28, 202
Research Grants in the Arts fund research studies that investigate the value and/or impact of the arts, either as individual components of the US arts ecology or as they interact with each other and/or with other domains of American life. Matching/cost share grants of $10,000 to $100,000 will be awarded. The NEA Research Labs program funds transdisciplinary research teams grounded in the social and behavioral sciences, yielding empirical insights about the arts for the benefit of arts and non-arts sectors alike. Matching/cost share grants of $100,000 to $200,000 will be awarded.
Join a live webinar on February 9, at 2:00 pm Eastern Time (ET) featuring an overview presentation of these opportunities, followed by a Q&A session. Register for the webinar;  a recording will be added to the Applicant Resources page.

Poetry Lab: Exploring Conflict Intelligence through the Lens of a Single Poem
From February 4 to March 11, on Fridays, the Irish poet and conflict mediator Pádrag Ó Tuama is exploring dynamics of conflict and sustainability through the lens of poetry. Every session is 60 minutes long and each week will explore a different poem. You may register for one, or some or all sessions. Virtual joining information will be sent to registrants ahead of each session.

Black Sacred Arts Conferences: Africana Sacred Healing Arts (2022)
May 16, 2022—May 18, 2022
The Yale Institute of Sacred Music is proud to present its conference on the topic of Africana Sacred Healing Arts, the first in a new series of conferences studying the Black Sacred Arts. The speakers, performers, and artists at this conference will consider how healing in African and African Diasporic religions encompasses a wide variety of rituals and practices. Focusing on diverse geographic sites in the Black Atlantic and beyond, the presentations will study how rites of healing can involve allopathic, homeopathic, and therapeutic measures that pertain to the individual as well as the collective. The presentations will share a focus on how the healing arts can include the study of material implements, sacred objects, the sensorial sphere of expressive culture, and embodied systems of knowledge.

Charya Burt, Johnson Fellowship Award recipient. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Announcements and Resources
The awarding of the 2022 Johnson Fellowship for Artists (USA)
The Johnson Fellowship for Artists, offered by Americans for the Arts, honors those who demonstrate a sustained commitment to civic participation in the U.S. through their work, and who make a positive and meaningful difference to inspire, inform, engage, challenge, animate, and celebrate communities through arts and culture. Americans for the Arts recognizes two extraordinary dance artists — Charya Burt of California and Christopher “Mad Dog” Thomas of Illinois — as the 2022 Johnson Fellows for Artists Transforming Communities. Each is awarded a $35,000 prize. Please see the press release for more information about the artists and the fellowship program.

Publication Launch: Transforming Conflict and Displacement through Arts and Humanities (December 2021)
Transforming Conflict and Displacement through Arts and Humanities draws on data compiled from 113 unique Global Challenges Research Fund Conflict and Displacement projects and explores what Dr. Robyn Gill-Leslie calls the “missing middle,” a robust discussion of arts-based methodologies — “where methods stem from, how projects adapted or changed their methods, and how methods affected the project outcome.” Featuring 10 dynamic case studies from AHRC-GCRF funded projects that exemplify the practical value of arts and humanities methods in unstable contexts, this report addresses the critical gap of how arts-based methods are effecting significant change at the local, national, and international level, and addressing the Sustainable Development Goals. 

Care Aesthetics: Research Exploration (CARE)
The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) has awarded researchers at the University of Manchester, the Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust, and Birkbeck, University of London a three-year grant of approximately £1Million to explore the concept of Care Aesthetics. 
Care Aesthetics: Research Exploration (CARE) asks what happens when we consider care a craft or artful practice. Considering the contemporary crisis in care, the project will explore how sensory and embodied practices of care can improve care services and change the quality of socially engaged arts practices CARE will launch a Care Aesthetic Lab in year one to bring practitioners from health and social care together with artists to explore new methods and practices of care, and to foster public engagement with the project. For more information please contact James Thompson (Drama, School of Arts Languages and Cultures, University of Manchester) and review the press release of the project.

Stolen Freedoms Report
PEN America’s report Stolen Freedoms: Creative Expression, Historic Resistance, and the Myanmar Coup explores the creative response to the coup and the military’s retaliatory crackdown, framing it within Myanmar’s long history of creative expression and protest.

Children on the Move – a multimedia resource about migration across the Americas
Recognizing and defending migration as a right, the international interdisciplinary ethnographic project, Children on the Move (Infancias en Movimiento), involving scholars, artists, and young people themselves, offers “an ethical and political approach to demonstrate and assert that without taking into account children and adolescents, it is impossible to begin to understand the global phenomenon of migration in today’s world.” Focused on migration across the Americas, “[t]his work is a demand for greater empathy for [the young people] when they must leave in search of their parents or other relatives; and a gesture of solidarity when they flee to build a new, alternative life… This multimedia project is also a proposal to transform research methods on migrant children and adolescents, to empower them, and share their knowledge and experiences” in ways that reach a broad and diverse public, and that shift criminalization and punishment policies. The project’s bilingual website offers a kaleidoscope of stories and testimonies. 

These young D.C. artists are painting their way to healing
Washington Post
The exhibition, “Art on the Rise in Wards 7 & 8,” spotlighted 10 young visual and performing artists — emerging talent — while highlighting the connection between art, healing and entrepreneurship.

New Releases from NYU Press
Cultivating Creativity
A wealth of mind-awakening exercises and strategies to nourish innovation in academic settings. Building from over three decades of teaching design studios and creativity seminars, Iain Robertson offers unusual guidance to unearth creative thinking. Order here.
Ecoart in Action
Ecoart in Action can help educators, students, and community members to begin a journey of ecoart activism. How do we educate those who feel an urgency to address our environmental and social challenges? What ethical concerns do art-makers face who are committed to a deep green agenda? How can we refocus education to emphasize integrative thinking and inspire hope? What role might art play in actualizing environmental resilience? Order here.

Deadline: February 28, 2022

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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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