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Western Addition Peace Wall, San Francisco, CA
Project History

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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 Wall.

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 6" tiles 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.


Installation of the Tile Art.

By May 2007, all the tiles were painted, fired, organized, labeled, and photographed; the SF Arts Commission had approved the project; the retaining wall had been resurfaced and repaired in preparation for tiling; funding for the installation and an unveiling ceremony had been raised (by the amazingly resourceful and committed coordinator of Hayes Valley Neighborhood Parks Group, Barbara Wenger). We were at last ready for installation. Tile setter Fred Jones and his crew were hired. They painted the wall a temporary but vivid red with moisture sealant and set the tiles in place, following a detailed set of engineering drawings and photographs. The t ile setters used wooden supports to set the levels of the many "steps" in Sean's ribbon-like template for the tiles, taping the engineering drawings to the wall to follow . After over a week of tile setting, involving some technical surprises and last minute changes, the final tile was laid.



Unveiling the Peace Wall

The Western Addition Peace Wall was unveiled June 9 2007, as part of a neighborhood Peace Celebration with food, information and craft booths, fantastic street and stage entertainers, and impassioned speakers including District Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, project Coordinator Barbara Wenger, World Wall for Peace founder Carolyna Marks, and other community activists.

The Peace Wall is dedicated to families of the Western Addition who've lost children to violence. I also dedicate my own work on the wall to the memories of my close friend's daughter, Jenny, who died at the age of fourteen; and to my mother, who devoted much of her life to seeking non-violent solutions to conflict through education and the arts . A glance at the Peace Wall plaque on lower Page Street reveals how large the number of people who contributed resources to this project. Thanks, thanks, and thanks to all who made it possible!



To order a booklet on the Western Addition Peace Wall and the revitalization of this Western Addition neighborhood contact Barbara Wenger at HVNParks@hotmail.com

SF Chronicle Article
YouTube Video


Titles and locations of Unifying Artworks

Page St. Entry Ramp bottom to top:

Page St. east-west:
Dancers on Dream's Horizon II
Threshold of a Dream
Birds of Peace Triptych
Hope Triptych
The Mirror
Clown of Peace

Buchanan St. north- south:
Loving Me, Loving You
Yin Yang I and Yin Yang II
Hope III (small tile) and Sun Faces
Meeting of Minds and Quartet


Peace Wall Image Gallery

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