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Artists aim to inspire 'acts of peace' through ASU exhibit

September 18, 2009

It's easier to say than to find: peace.

Scottsdale painter Mitra Kamali searched for it as she helped her parents escape execution in Iran.  

Artists like Lori Wilson who are battling mental illness catch it in fleeting moments, through careful brushstrokes.

They're among many artists in a new exhibit at the Downtown Phoenix campus who have faced different kinds of turmoil, but who are engaged in the same effort. All of them are using the arts as a means toward mental wellness and practical acts of peace for themselves and communities.

"Practical Acts of Peace Building: Recognizing the International Day of Peace and Mind-Body Wellness" features 140 works on display through Jan. 11 at University Center, 411 N. Central Ave., Phoenix. Admission is free.  

Co-curated by Judy Butzine of the Cultural Arts Coalition, the exhibit features a diverse cadre of talent ranging from internationally recognized artists such as Anne Coe and Dr. Eugene Grigsby Jr., to emerging Latina artist Carolina Parra showing her work for the first time in the U.S. The artwork is designed to inspire meaningful conversation around critical issues and public policies that impact peace and wellness in communities.

"Anytime there's an opportunity for people to come together to settle conflict in a peaceful, quiet and intelligent way, that is really our only hope for society," says Phoenix artist Nubia Owens, who created new works for the exhibit.

The collection also shares viewpoints from nonprofits in the Phoenix community and the people they serve. More than 120 artists are represented, including those from international organizations like Turtle Will and Los Otras Hermanas, and Phoenix-area groups such as New Song Center, PSA Art Awakenings and Las Artes de Maricopa.

Much of the artwork focuses on mental health issues, and is inspired by research in the Morrison Institute for Public Policy's recent report, Arizona's Mind-Body Problem: Mental Health Systems and Choices.

For example, a collection from the National Alliance on Mental Illness - Arizona chapter features works by artists directly served through the program.

"The art is truly a form of therapy for them. It gives them a voice," says Leila Pleasant, development director for NAMI-Arizona. "For the amount of people who are affected by mental illness, the stigma is amazing. Although mental illness is viewed as a handicap, mental health is a catalyst for providing opportunity and dissolving disadvantages."

The new installation is part of the ongoing "For Our Eyes" exhibition, which features artwork throughout the building from ASU's community partners. Viewing hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

For information about the exhibit, contact ASU College of Public Programs community engagement liaison Malissa Geer at or Judy Butzine of the CAC at

To see more photos of the exhibit, visit: