After 9/11, artist and activist Maureen Bennett was moved to create a community work of art expressing and visualizing images of peace.
Now, 13 years and 37 exhibitions later, Bennett will talk about the resulting series of panels, titled “Peace by Piece,” at Feb. 28 kabalat Shabbat services at Temple Ner Tamid in Bloomfield, where the artwork has been on display since early February.
Although usually displayed in a cube shape “so people can move inside and outside of ‘peace,’” Bennett told NJJN, at Ner Tamid, due to space limitations, the panels are displayed against a wall. Not every image in the series is on display at the temple; the full work comprises thousands of panels created by schoolchildren, senior citizens, and community groups around the metropolitan New York area, each expressing a visual understanding or representation of peace.
This Ner Tamid display marks the first time the panels have been shown in four years. During that gap, Bennett, an artist who works in oils, acrylics, pastels, graphite, and mixed media, was inspired by Peace by Piece to create her own art. Some of that work is also on display at Ner Tamid.
Creativity and social change are nothing new to Bennett, who taught art as social change in the south Bronx for more than 20 years before undertaking the project. The school where she worked was the first to enroll. By the time she was done, over 1,100 children had participated. The exhibit was first displayed as part of the bar mitzva project of a friend of her own son’s, at Temple Beth El in Closter.
“Peace is not static,” said Bennett, quoting Martin Luther King Jr. “It’s a moving target, and we are trying to make it tangible through art.” She added, “Once you ask what peace looks like, you are also asking the larger question: What is our role in bringing it about?”