Lisa Schirch: Pioneer Article on Arts and Peacebuilding

Lisa Schirch, Eastern Mennonite University’s Artist in Residence and Director of 3P Human Security, has been a pioneer in the idea of using the arts as a creative means to resolve conflict and assist in the healing process. For many years Lisa has been working in and researching this topic that didn’t really exist until recent history. For this reason, I would call her a pioneer in the field. I would like to share one of her early articles on arts and peacebuilding that she wrote, in collaboration with Michael Shank, as a student at the EMU Center for Justice and Peacebuilding program called Strategic Arts-Based Peacebuilding which she published in 2008. In her words, here is an explanation of the purpose of the article:

“This article seeks to move beyond a simplistic approach that asserts the ‘arts are powerful’ to a richer articulation of how they function in peacebuilding, when to use them, what they can do, and how to evaluate their usage.”

I appreciated how easy this article was to read since they were very clear about their language (they gave definitions on the second page), used illustrations, and gave many examples of how their strategies worked. Before coming to Lisa’s show, Pax Bellissima, this Saturday, November 3, at 4 PM in the Hartzler Gallery, I would strongly suggest reading into the “Transforming Relationships” section on pages 6 and 7. This section, according to the provided visual, includes issues such as trauma healing. It talks about ways to “turn negative energy into positive energy.” I believe that this is what Lisa’s purpose is behind her Pax Bellissima exhibit, to turn her negative emotions that are weighing her down into positive emotions that she can share with others. This is a sort of art through expression, but especially art through process. By this I mean that Lisa is using her art to make beauty, but also to create a beauty within herself. As she works on her pieces, she is also working out the pain in her life. By turning her hurt into something visual and physical, she has found a healthy way to express her pain and in a sense come to terms with it. This is sort of like the prisoners that she talks about in this section that study and stage full Shakespeare plays. They get the chance to express emotions that they wouldn’t otherwise have a healthy way to feel. This is a transformative technique that Lisa is working towards in her own work. I would strongly suggest that you read the whole article, but if you only get to read part before Saturday, I would suggest the “Transforming Relationships” portion. If you get a chance to read it, we’d love to have your feed back. Is there a certain section that spoke to you in particular? -b.hench