Back of the Yards

Chicago IL

Ten Thousand Ripples/Back of the Yards
Changing Worlds
Written By Changing Worlds

Transforming spaces of peace

Back of the Yards, near the former Union Stock Yards, is home to a largely Hispanic population. Emilio Carrasquillo, Director of Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago, worked with diverse sectors of the community to identify a wide range of installation sites. Some sites, like the Bishop’s Peace Garden, built in memory of a child killed in a drive-by shooting, were chosen specifically to reinforce the action of taking back a public space and transforming it into a space of peace. High-profile businesses such as Cole Taylor Bank and Federal Savings Bank were very supportive, participating in TTR and installing sculptures on their sites.

The Buddha image invited people to reflect on the possibility of an end to violence and the emergence of peace, and to draw on individual and communal resources for moving from reflection to action. Jequeline Salinas, an art teacher who worked on TTR projects with students at Hedges School spoke of her thoughts and feelings about the sculpture.

“For me, the Buddha image symbolizes la esperanza—meaning the hope. The hope I feel deep inside my soul. It is the desire that my students and school community can find peace, live peace,” Jequeline Salinas, Art Teacher at Hedges School.

In a neighborhood that has rarely gone a year without violence directly impacting its community in some way, Salinas saw the opportunity to build an art curriculum centered around symbols of peace. In the following two minute clip, listen to Salinas discuss how the the respect for the sculptures and their meaning has given students a reverence for the space.

At Hedges School, many students have lost aunts and uncles, older siblings, parents to local violence. Early in the 2012 school year, a former student was lost. “It becomes part of the suffering in our school community,” Salinas says. Students created papier-mâché doves, worked on their own sculptures to install next to the Buddha in the school’s garden, and created drawings and large-scale paintings, among other projects.

One soft-spoken fifth-grade student in the class made a mark on peers and adults alike. He had lost his mother to a stray bullet on Halloween years before. “He said the Buddha reminded him of his mother—because she was peaceful,” Salinas explains. “A lot of his art is centered around this interruption of peace—and how you can never give up. Everyone in the classroom was so quiet but so compassionate toward him.”

Salinas is continuing to work with themes of nonviolence and conflict resolution in the wake of Ten Thousand Ripples, and recently won a grant to start a similar project, called “I am emerging” inspired by student stories and the emerging image of the Buddha sculptures. “This helped in the healing process and the understanding process—and really, the wondering process. It was something that really took us by heart— it really touched us.”

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