Dedicated to the Families of children lost to violence
in the Western Addition
A History of the Project by Justine Tatarsky
Community Unites for Peace through the Arts.
In 1999, with consultation and training from the organization, World
Walls for Peace, residents of the Western Addition of San Francisco
became participants in a Peace Empowerment Process. Volunteers taught
a program in two elementary schools and over fifty community based
organizations, focusing on tolerance, understanding, and non-violence.
Participants learned ways to develop positive solutions to resolving
conflicts and defusing anger. The project was developed and implemented
by residents for residents—a true community endeavor.
As part of their participation, people of all ages painted over
1,800 tiles on the theme of peace, to be installed on a retaining
wall that encircles Daniel Koshland Park on Page and Buchanan Streets
in San Francisco. This park, which was rebuilt through grass roots
efforts, contains playground equipment, a basketball court and a
beautiful community garden serving the diverse people of the neighborhood.
The San Francisco Zen Center is directly opposite the park and members
of its community were among those contributing artwork for the Peace
My Role as Peace Wall Unifying Artist.
As Unifying Artist for the project, I was asked to organize these
tiles into a pattern created by architect, Sean Gorman, and choose
about fifty square feet of my tile paintings (ranging from individual
to 6' multiple-tile paintings) to be installed among them. With community
input and a familiarity with the other tiles as well as the site, I
chose as "unifying artworks" pieces which explore (among
others) the themes of harmony between diverse people and with nature;
reverence for mystery; and acceptance of the perpetual interplay
of light and dark forces in the human psyche and in life. A list
of my pieces by title and location on the Wall follows this article.
It was deeply moving to work with the community tile artworks. They
are an eloquent expression of urgent hope for a more peaceful world,
gratitude for what peace does exist, and simple delight in the opportunity
to create. This task became yet more significant to me when I realized
that I was carrying on in the spirit of my mother, who had given
loving care to presenting and cataloguing the artwork of the children
of Da Nahazli School, which she and my father founded in 1968 as
their answer to the question of how to make the world a more peaceful
place. My intention was to honor each artwork's individuality, while
seeking overall harmony to help communicate more clearly their shared
message of peace. Noticing repeated themes, colors, moods, styles,
and textures in this diverse collection I grouped the artworks around
these elements. Arranging the larger groupings, especially, was a
delightful experience, akin to that of quilting or collage.
The shape of the wall itself is quite complex. It varies from 4'
to 14' high, includes two entrances to Koshland Park, borders two
streets and their intersection, and is mostly on a steep slope. I
grew to know it intimately. In placing art within Sean's complex
template, I considered v iewing height of the tiles, location of
trees, quality of light, proximity to housing and the Zen Center,
the symbolism of entrances, corners and ramps, and many other factors.
Very broadly speaking, I grouped tiles on lower Page street around
the themes of our life-giving waters, community, and landscape; the
entrance ramp (leading into the community gardens) has a garden theme;
a walk up Page will take you through areas focusing on trees, clouds
filled with light, darkness and stars, sorrow and hope, various symbols
and emblems, abstraction and patterns of various styles, and playful
celebration. Many themes are revisited on Buchanan and throughout.
Each of the tiles, of course, has a unique spirit and as many meanings
are there are viewers.