In which to explore the role of art as a bridge for peaceful exchanges

The new Ilan-Lael Center, designed as two embracing arms welcoming visitors to a sheltered courtyard, debuted in March as a true multifaceted center for the arts. James’s building design really showed its colors as an inspiring meeting space for the first-ever Pacific Rim Park Peace Retreat on March 10.

Leaders and members of Ilan-Lael Foundation met with Pacific Rim Park (PRP) representatives from the U.S., Mexico, and Korea, and were joined by members of the University of San Diego’s Kroc School of Peace and Justice, Rotarians from Tijuana, B.C., and other Pacific Rim Park cohorts from San Diego and Tijuana.

The multi-cultural group shared ideas around the role of art as a bridge for peaceful exchange. 

The role of the arts and creativity in peace-building is a relatively new area of academic study, but is increasingly being acknowledged and recognized. John Paul Lederach, a leading peace-building academic and practitioner, believes that peace can be achieved via webs of relationships. This gathering in the mountains offered a unique opportunity to include the Pacific Rim Park concept in a pioneering approach, and provided space for conversation and friendship between people whose worlds are intimately connected but who typically do not have a chance to get together because of distance, ideology, nationalism, or other barriers.

Jim had events like this in mind from the first moments of even conceptualizing Ilan-Lael Center’s new meeting space.

“I’d like the place to be for exploring possibilities and challenges as diverse groups find common ground.” James said. “Trust is the building block of all Pacific Rim Park projects and the artistic process.”

“When we create parks we talk about a Pacific Ocean that can either separate us or hold us together,” said PRP Executive Director, Kyle Bergman. “Stories and ideas are the threads holding us together. How these come together via the expression of art built in public spaces can be imbued with great beauty and meaning. This group is part of our worldwide PRP tapestry.”

“Our PRP members from Korea are very dedicated to fostering peaceful relationships among nations,” added Marianne Gerdes, Executive Director of Ilan-Lael Foundation. “We introduced them to citizens and officials in San Diego and Tijuana with a shared interest in international peace-building. At the same time we were showing the ILF Center to our new friends from San Diego and Tijuana so they could experience first-hand the qualities that make this space ideal for important conversations.”

Full floor plan for the Ilan-Lael Art Center by Hubbell & Hubbell Architects

Ilan-Lael’s mission centers on people discovering and celebrating creativity as a catalyst for positive change. James believes the buildings’ curvilinear shapes and art elements can actually help change the way people think and talk. He wants more people in the community to use the space to further the educational mission of the foundation.

Retreat guests participated in group and one-on-one conversations, art activities, and art-and-nature immersion. They explored shared ideals, opened their minds to new ideas, and got away from day-to-day distractions by soaking-in the tranquility and inspiration of the setting.

“We had the pleasure of enjoying Ilan-Lael Foundation’s amazing venue and got to meet many fascinating people throughout the day,” said Necla Tschirgi, Associate Dean and Distinguished Professor of Human Security and Peacebuilding at the University of San Diego. “Jim and Anne and their warm hospitality added to a most memorable day.”

This story is from the Spring 2019 issue of Hidden Leaves
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