Peace and Justice Week kicked off officially with the Peace of My Mind exhibit displayed in the ACC and ARC Sunday evening, and it will continue to be available for viewing throughout the week. Fifty-two portraits of individuals working for peace across the nation are coupled with their personal story. The photos and stories were captured by John Noltner, a freelance photographer from Minnesota who also spoke at the opening night event.
According to apeaceofmymind.net, the exhibit was featured at the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize Forum and has been seen by over 80,000 people since beginning its travels in 2010. Attendees of the opening night were given an exhibit guide complete with reflection questions to foster a deeper interaction with the art, asking questions related to one’s personal peace and drawing connections between that and the art.
The event was organized by Stacia McDermott, the campus Peace and Justice Coordinator, who introduced the first speaker and curator John Noltner.
“A Peace of My Mind represents Noltner’s belief that art and storytelling have the power to transform our hearts as well as our communities,” she said.
Noltner spoke easily to the crowd gathered and highlighted his own faith.
“I constantly come back to Jesus’ commandment to ‘Love one another,’” said Noltner. “You know I’ve looked really hard for the exceptions and the qualifiers to that statement and it doesn’t have any. It doesn’t say love the ones that look like you , love the ones that act like you or love the ones that will vote like you in the next election cycle. It says ‘Love one another.’ Period. ”
His skill for storytelling has earned him national and international acclaim. His goal to “seek out common humanity” allowed Noltner the opportunity to, as he put it, “feed his hungry soul” through such meaningful work. His success could be accredited to his curiosity, starting with the simple question “What does peace mean to you?”
From the pottery artist to the financial planner who doubles as a Buddhism teacher, the stories of peace are compelling and thought provoking. The display opens a community dialogue for how we seek peace in daily life as well as in the grand scheme of international diplomacy.
Brad Cavanagh, professor of social work, shared his story on getting involved in social work. He reflected on how hard it can be to grapple with heavy questions as a college kid when you just want to make the world better but aren’t quite sure how. His words were encouraging.
“How can we confront these ginormous issues facing the world today that are so complex?” he asked. “And then I think, ‘We already have. We have solved huge problems and conflicts. We eradicated smallpox, for instance’.”
Michelle Kavanaugh, the social outreach and action intern for the Fr. Ray Herman Peace and Justice Center and an officer for DuSomething, spoke after Greg Gorton, the men’s basketball coach, explained how he serves his athletes every day in meaningful ways beyond coaching. Both spoke sincerely on the importance of authenticity and listening to others during everyday conversations.
Kavanaugh, who spent a year doing service work with a Catholic organization in Atlanta, Georgia after high school, related to Loras’ many passionate students as she explained her struggle to work for peace in a classroom setting.
“Working for peace isn’t something that’s always really tangible like doing mission work or traveling and doing social action things,” she said.
Sometimes, working for peace is as simple as hearing someone else’s story and experiencing A Peace of My Mind is the perfect opportunity to do so.
Even if you weren’t able to make the exhibit on its opening night, the art is most certainly worth taking the time to observe. Hearing the stories of those working for peace offers insight to people whom you might not normally have the chance of encountering. Building bridges is the key to waging peace.