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Professor Uses Art as a Tool for Peace

Exhibit Aims to Help Kids Cope with Violent World

Hess Peace Art

Graphic design Asst. Prof. Ingrid Hess' solo exhibit 'Why Peace?' is showing at the Dayton International Peace Museum in Ohio.

By Sheila Eppolito

The news is filled with it. 

Terrorism in Paris. Shootings in schools and movie theaters. Lockdowns in cities like Brussels and Boston. For children, these events can be especially frightening, and UMass Lowell graphic design Asst. Prof. Ingrid Hess is determined to use art to help young people cope and understand these dangerous days.

“It’s easy to feel powerless when confronted by news of terror and war. Rather than telling myself there is nothing I can do to make a positive change in the world, I focus on art,” Hess says.

“Art is a particularly effective tool when educating young children about peace. Even when children can’t read, they are able to understand visual images and create their own. Exposing children to images and teachings about peace helps them become peacemakers themselves,” she says.

Hess’ solo exhibit “Why Peace?” is showing in Dayton, Ohio, at the Dayton International Peace Museum, a non-profit institution with a focus on inspiring peace in the United States and elsewhere. Founded in 2004, the museum honors the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords that ended the war in Bosnia. 

The Dayton exhibit presents 22 cut-paper prints, each of which focuses the child’s attention on a subject — flowers, for example — that is accompanied by a verbal description of how a child might use the subject in peacemaking, like giving a flower to a friend. The show also includes a large panel depicting people of all races interacting peacefully with each other. 

“When peace is taught as an alternative to war, images and words from the battlelfield can be less frightening to kids,” Hess says. “Relating peace and peacemaking to positive outcomes is a more age-appropriate and effective way to teach children.”

Hess’ museum exhibit is accompanied by a workshop where children and adults can come up with additional subjects for peace, create images of their own, and focus on how they can be peacemakers.
Hess has written and designed several children’s books including “The Amish Alphabet” and “Sleep in Peace,” which won the Rodda Award. 

“Why Peace?” will be at the Dayton International Peace Museum through January 2016.