by Liberty Finch
The opening message on the website for the PEACE Foundation offers a gruesome reminder that in the summer of 2004, North Minneapolis’ Jordan neighborhood endured 27 assaults, four rapes and three murders in just three short months. Today, the crime wave continues—homicides on the Northside are up, and the PEACE Foundation has already held multiple vigils, including one for Marcus White, a 19-year-old who was a volunteer outreach worker for the organization’s PEACE Games last year. While the relentless cycle of violence has left residents weary with grief and frustration, it has also galvanized community members to work harder and harder for peace, public safety and youth development.
The PEACE (Public Engagement and Community Empowerment) Foundation was established in 2003. “We saw the escalation of violence and as a community we asked, ‘what are we going to do?’” explained founder Sondra Hollinger Samuels (wife of councilmember Don Samuels). Utilizing more than 100 volunteers and engaging area businesses and churches, the PEACE Foundation organizes Northside youth activities, street parties and monthly street tours for policymakers.
This is the second year for the organization’s annual PEACE Games, a two-week
celebration of sporting and arts
events. This year also marked the first-ever Northside art crawl, which
launched the festivities on July 28. The Games close on August 10, with a Garden
Celebration at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, along with tours and art activities
at the Walker Art Center.
of Peace is a photo-documentary exhibit by North Minneapolis youth and
the primary artistic component of the 2006 Peace Games. On display at the Walker
from August 4–10, the exhibit features images and quotes of those who
live, work and worship in North Minneapolis, and explores the rich and diverse
relationships that exist among community members.
Armed with digital cameras and audio recorders, a group of young people, ages
15 to 22, set out to shoot their neighbors, artistically. “They interviewed
and photographed people at the PEACE Foundation’s street parties throughout
the summer,” explained Michelle Martin, director of the PEACE Foundation.
“The idea was to capture images of people who sparked new relationships
by being at these events together, as well as people who have had lasting relationships
that cross divides of race, geography and experience.”
Artist and arts educator Dudley Voigt was instrumental in coordinating this
year’s artistic component of the PEACE Games. She said the youth learned
about documentary photography and interviewing skills in a summer-long program
with documentary photographer Megan Leafblad and artist Io Plamer, a collaborative
public arts director with the Fowell Center for Urban Initiatives’ North
Side Stories project.
Voigt describes one of the Portraits of Peace. “Here is the relationship
between Linda Baker and Dean Rose, who own the Bean
Scene [a coffee shop on West Broadway]. Linda grew up on the Northside and
has lived here her whole life. She raised her children and now her grandchildren
here. She’s an African-American, Christian woman of a grandmotherly age.
Her business partner, Dean Rose, is a white, Jewish man who grew up in Edina.
In some ways they are such a funny pair—
different ages, different faiths, different races—so in interviewing them
we wanted to learn about how their relationship works. The both talked frankly
about what they learn from each other, the openness it takes for them to be
in business together and what it’s like to be on the Northside. What’s
incredible is the power of asking people to tell their story and to say, ‘your
story is meaningful.’”
After its initial debut at the Walker, images and quotes from Portraits of
Peace will tour Minneapolis’ Park and Recreation Board sites, PEACE
Foundation Congregational Partners and Northside organizations and businesses.
The Walker Art Center is located at 1750 Hennepin Ave., Mpls. 612-375-7600.
For more information, contact the PEACE Foundation at 612-521-4405 or visit