Throughout the years the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum has presented countless exhibits to the Atlanta community. These endeavors have included everything from Dr. Seuss’s political cartoons to the history and story behind Rich’s. With every opening, the museum has continuously drawn numerous visitors to its galleries. However, with the city’s ever growing population and the community’s innate sense of curiosity, this is easier said than done at times. That is however until now. As part of an interactive community art project the exhibit Peace: What Does it Mean to You? is the museums most recent and ambitious opening yet. The collection consists of a set of 50 portraits followed by a brief excerpt of each person’s biography and what Peace signifies to them. The exhibit is part of a series which includes John Noltner’s previous work A Peace of my Mind.
Aimed at fostering public dialogues, the exhibit challenges viewers to reevaluate their own beliefs towards Peace and how it compares to that of the excerpt before them. As visitors browse through each portrait, they are inadvertently exposed to a diverse group of individuals who all come from different walks of life. Jeff Kennedy, Scott Augustine, and Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman passages are a prime example of this very concept. Augustine, for instance, equates Peace with one’s overall sense of stability in life. As the CEO of a medical device company, Augustine works with Peace House Africa to educate AIDS orphans who may otherwise become impoverished. He states “when people are hopeful about their future, then this will lead to Peace.”
Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman on the other hand associates Peace as far from conventional and an ever evolving process. As an active member of her community, Zimmerman regularly converses with clergy from other religions and recognizes that peace is not always guaranteed “We may have Peace one day and lose it the next.” Lastly, Jeff Kennedy renders his notion of Peace through kind gestures bestowed to him by random strangers. As someone who has lived on the streets for most of his life, Kennedy states, “we often wait for life’s tragedies before we reach out to each other; however this is not always the case.”
With conflicts taking place all over the world and negative broadcasts filling the airwaves, it has become increasingly strenuous for people to connect with each other. Whether the discussion is in regards to a political quibble, an ethical dilemma, or a religious confrontation, the amount of energy individuals use to identify differences within each far outweighs that of finding similarities. This in affect has led to a more polarized society and allowed individuals to dismiss viewpoints which fail to mimic their own.
That is, up until now. Since its release the exhibit has altered the very way in which people perceive other’s point of view. With the influx of visitors arriving daily, the collection continuous to challenge its viewers as to what Peace means and how it may be attained. As visitors stroll through the gallery, it is impossible for one to remain indifferent to the portraits before them. Each excerpt offers us the chance to travel the world without ever stepping foot outside Atlanta and as we read each passage we acquire a first-hand look into daily life within a different region. Remarkably, the sooner we do, the sooner we realize how are differences pale in comparison to our similarities and how we are all struggling to achieve the most important trait of all: Peace.