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‘A Peace of My Mind’ Exhibition to Spark Conversation on Peace, Common Good
In 2009, award-winning photographer John Noltner set out on the road looking for an answer to one question.
Over the next three years, he traveled 40,000 miles, through 46 states across the country, asking people from diverse backgrounds and experiences the same question: “What does peace mean to you?” The fruits of that exploration have been transformed into “A Peace of My Mind,” a social commentary project that has appeared on campuses across the country.
Hendricks Chapel is bringing the multimedia exhibition to Syracuse University from Sept. 4-9. Through 30 photo panels, ordinary people share their personal stories and reveal their extraordinary insights about how we can work toward a common good and create a world that is more peaceful and just for all.
The exhibition will open on Tuesday, Sept. 4, at noon in three locations around campus—the Hendricks Chapel Noble Room, the Jack and Laura Hanhausen Milton Atrium in the Life Sciences Complex and E.S. Bird Library.
Those profiled include Holocaust survivors and homeless persons, refugees and corporate executives. Artists, volunteers, politicians and industry leaders are among those who share their thoughts and inspiring stories in a celebration of our common experience and sense of community. Their stories and insights serve as a catalyst for introspection and dialogue within greater communities.
On Thursday, Sept. 6, members of the Syracuse community are invited to participate in a photo shoot and Q&A opportunity on a shared question from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Milton Atrium. Noltner will provide a public presentation, focusing on his method and findings that evening at 7:30 p.m. in the chapel’s Noble Room.
The stories collected at Syracuse University will be utilized for further programming at Hendricks Chapel throughout the academic year.
“The world likes to ask us to focus on the things that separate us—politics, ethnicity, religion, gender and class,” says Noltner. “What if, instead, we chose to explore those things that connect us? What if we spent that time looking for that common humanity that we all share? Not to ignore our differences, but to seek out what is good in the world and to use that as a model to move forward.”
Hendricks Chapel Dean the Rev. Brian Konkol says the exhibition will help us to explore common threads in our lived experiences. “At a time when our local and global realities are increasingly connected yet isolated, diverse yet distant, and filled with hope and optimism yet also panic and aggression, this powerful exhibit will affirm our common humanity and remind us that we need each other to become ourselves,” he says.
A Peace of My Mind was founded in 2009 and expanded into the public forum in 2010 with the production of the traveling exhibit funded through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. Since then, more than 80,000 people have viewed the exhibit at schools, private galleries, community centers, places of worship, libraries and universities across the country.
Noltner’s work and subject matter are varied, ranging from small-town America to overseas projects. His photographs have been published in such national magazines as National Geographic Traveler, AARP, Health, Smithsonian and Business Week.
As part of his project, Noltner produced a companion 120-page book in 2011 (“A Peace of My Mind: Exploring the Meaning of Peace One Story at a Time”) featuring black-and-white portraits and personal stories of 55 individuals responding to his signature question about peace.
After more than two decades as an award-winning photographer, Noltner has begun working in film, first developing multimedia pieces for nonprofits and recently producing short videos for clients and documentary projects. He has worked on in-depth social commentary over the past decade, combining portraiture, oral histories and video to examine our society and how we relate to one another.
An active advocate for peace and justice, Nolter is a member of the Peace and Justice Studies Association and the Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers. He served on the board of Lutheran Partners in Global Ministry from 2006-09 and was also a founding board member of Peace House Africa from 1999-2002.