San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Festival Promotes Peace through Art

ARTISTS of all ages will put their talent toward a cause tomorrow as they unite to promote peace and speak out against violence at the third Arte por la Paz (Art for Peace) festival in downtown San José.A joint effort of the Child Welfare Office (PANI) and the United States Peace Corps, the daylong festival includes a range of activities for children and adults that use art to educate about violence.Musical performances, interactive drama, a clown, games and an art exhibit are on the day’s agenda. Additionally, organizations that work with victims of violence will have booths set up to give out information on how those who have suffered a violent act can get help.Art for Peace started in 2003 as a gathering of Costa Rican artists who wanted to display their work as a way of demonstrating peace and protesting the war in Iraq. Since then, it has evolved into a festival to denounce not only war, but also violence that hits closer to home – domestic violence, abuse and sexual exploitation.PANI became involved last year, and has provided funding and organizational support for this year’s festival, which marks the culmination of a three-month project carried out by 11 Peace Corps volunteers who live and work in poor communities around the country.Each of the volunteers carried out workshops on violence prevention with children in their communities. Using painting, drawing, photography, written work and music, they taught about different kinds of violence, conflict management, the cycle of violence, how to report violent acts and other related topics, explained Elizabeth Murray, a Peace Corps volunteer in San Juan de Puriscal, a mountain town southwest of San José.The children who participated in the workshops had the opportunity to enter an original piece of artwork in a nationwide contest, and prizes will be awarded in a ceremony at the festival tomorrow. Many of these children will get to travel to San José for the event; each of the 11 Peace Corps volunteers will bring 18 children and four adults from their communities.CREATING awareness about violence is important, said Murray, 24, who worked on Art for Peace’s planning committee.“As Peace Corps volunteers, we work in prevention,” she said. “It’s important to draw attention to the fact that violence often evokes images of war, but another big aspect is violence within the family – not just physical, but sexual and verbal violence.”Costa Rican rock group Malpaís will kick off the musical portion of the festival, and 18-year-old singer and guitarist Alejandro Jiménez will perform a song he wrote for the event.Jiménez, who participated in last year’s festival, said his music has a social message; in particular, he uses it to speak out against the United States’ invasion of Iraq.“Art and music have the power to transmit peace, the power to transform,” said Jiménez, from Ciudad Quesada, a crossroads town in north-central Costa Rica, where he frequently plays at bars and parties. “It’s emotional to see how these songs inspire people; it’s a way to give them hope.”Art for Peace will take place tomorrow, from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., at Parque de las Garantías Sociales, behind the Caja building in downtown San José. The event is free and open to the public.

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