The modern peace sign has been an iconic symbol since the late 1950s.
Today, the town of Lenexa presents another way of conveying peace: colorful poles created by local artists. Over the summer, 37 poles were displayed at Sar-Ko-Par Trails Park as part of the Peace Poles community art project.
Two additional poles are on display at the Civic Lenexa Campus to help promote the exhibition. The public’s last chance to see the exhibit is at the end of the month. The posts will remain on display in the park until October 31.
The goal of the Peace Pole Project is to inspire peace, hope, creativity and community engagement, according to Susanne Neely, Lenexa’s recreation supervisor.
âThe Lenexa Rotary Club and the Western Johnson County Rotary Club approached the city in early 2020 with the idea of ââplanting a Peace Pole somewhere in the city as a daily reminder that kindness comes from acts of kindness and that peace comes from kindness. âSaid Neely. âParks and Recreation met the Rotary clubs and brainstormed ideas, which led to this exhibit. “
The Lenexa Arts Council also joined the planning team, providing expertise, advice and assistance to the exhibition.
âWe think it was the perfect project at the perfect time because the exhibit offers messages of peace and hope during difficult times,â said Neely. âWe were still in the midst of a pandemic when we announced the call for artists. “
In fall 2020, a call went out for design submissions from local artists and community groups looking for original designs that convey a certain concept of peace in words or artistic elements. The people submitting work were not residents of Lenexa.
Once the nominations were received, a jury committee made up of members of the participating Rotary clubs, the arts council, as well as the Lenexa Parks and Recreation Department, reviewed the nominations in terms of quality, creativity, originality and of peace message. Thirty-seven poles were selected and installed in the park. The two additional poles at the Civic Center were not part of the design competition; they were created by arts council member Judy Tuckness and the family of Neely.
âCommunity members loved the opportunity to work individually or in small groups to create their unique artistic designs and share their messages of peace,â said Neely.
The artists reflected a cross section of the community. They included past and current Hallmark Cards artists, professional and amateur artists, an architect, a social worker, and a few local Girl Scout troupes.
The 18 members of the 1790 Girl Scout Troop, based at Mill Creek Elementary School, worked in four small groups to come up with their pole design.
âOur whole troop talked about what peace means and how we can all help spread peace around the world,â said Karen Archer, troop leader.
âOne group wanted to encourage others to dream of peace by flying with a bee and a butterfly around a rainbow that connects the words ‘hope’ and ‘goodness’. The second group chose the word âuniqueâ to illustrate the different ways in which individuals can use their own strengths and interests to foster peace. Group three chose to paint a sun, reminding others to shine, setting on waves of peace.
âThe last group focused on the search for peace by exploring the world around us. The whole design works together to share a message of peace from the girls in our troop to the world. “
Peace Pole by artist Andy Handwork won the Best of Show award. It includes signs on the top with city names pointing in different directions. Inspiration for Handwork came from the popular âM * A * S * Hâ TV show, which featured a sign at the start of each episode showing how far the soldiers were from their hometown.
Handwork has a bachelor’s degree in fine arts in printmaking, illustration, and ceramics, but art is now a hobby for him. He worked with Neely on his own art exhibition at the Lenexa City Gallery a few years ago.
âShe always keeps me posted on new projects that I might be interested in (and) it was definitely one of those projects,â Handwork said.
Handwork appreciated that its Peace Pole was on display to the public.
âI’m really glad no one broke the Russia or China sign,â he said with a chuckle.
Neely said the public enjoyed the unique exhibit in the city park.
âWe have received a lot of positive feedback from park visitors who appreciate the creative display and messages of peace,â said Neely.
Once the exhibition ends on Halloween, artists will have the opportunity to touch up their posts, if they wish. The poles will be sold in a live silent auction hosted by Rotary clubs from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on November 12 at Lenexa Town Hall. The public is invited to attend the auction. Proceeds from the sale will benefit Project 1020, which is based in Lenexa and is Johnson County’s only shelter for homeless adults.
For more information on the auction, visit www.lenexa.com.