From an early age children are influenced with toy guns, “G.I. Joe” cartoons, and school curriculum that dwell on martial history and tools of war. But, notions of peace and conflict resolution? Not so much. That’s a big reason why Donna Clapp, Jeff Clapp, and Jeff Rudy launched Where Peace Lives.
The idea behind Where Peace Lives is to spark a dialogue about peace among school kids. To nudge those conversations forward, students create murals that depict ideas about peace that they could discuss in the classroom—then exchange their murals with schools in other countries.
Jeff and Donna Clapp are both artists, and art has always been critical to the way they express themselves. Jeff Clapp conceived of the mural project while participating in a Landmark program where the emphasis is on making a difference in the community. Along with their colleague, Jeff Rudy, the Clapps shared a vision that every child in the world should feel safe and celebrated.
They chose the medium of murals because of its collaborative nature. Students work with their mentor and teachers on an activity manual that teaches them about conflict resolution. “We want the kids to understand why conflict comes up, why people get so stuck in an argument, and how to see past that to understand and appreciate the other person’s point of view,” says Jeff Clapp.
Mural diplomacy can transcend barriers of culture and language. “People look at a mural and understand what the artist meant—whether they’re from Germany or Japan or Jamaica,” says Donna.
Survey results show that 100 percent of participating students have an increased understanding of conflict resolution and peace building, and 100 percent of teachers and administrators say they would be interested in continuing to have Where Peace Lives programs in their schools.
At a recent United Nations gathering where students from several schools shared murals they’d created, young people talked about the lessons they had taken away from the experience. One student said, “It wasn’t just an image on a canvas. It was a possibility. It helped to open our eyes to the world, and what the world could be. Where Peace Lives showed us that peace truly lives inside of us.”