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Chalk it Up to Peace

CHALK4PEACE global event to take place at sites throughout Arlington on Sept. 16-17.

The weekend of Sept. 16 will be a chalky one, as participants in the first global CHALK4PEACE event get on their hands and knees to decorate sidewalks with their colored depictions of peace.

CHALK4PEACE’s Global Greeting will take place on Saturday, Sept. 16 at 10:30 a.m., at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Plaza. Following the official greeting, children of all ages, brightly colored chalk in hand, will busily sketch emblems of peace at various sites all over the world, from Sept. 16th to the 17th.

Organized by John Aaron, director of The Museum of Modern ARF, the inspiration for this worldwide artistic endeavor came last year. An American chalk-painting event, also called CHALK4PEACE, took place at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Plaza. It was sponsored by the DC Commission for the Arts and Humanities, the Mayor's Office for Asian Pacific Islander Affairs, the D.C. Public Library System and the Museum of Modern ARF.

"It was so moving … to see some of the artists and what they did … to see them get down on their knees, chalk in hand, draw their visions of peace, and see what could happen," said Aaron.

What stuck with Aaron in particular was a drawing done by a 16-year-old boy, of a tank done in the cubist style, with the Chinese symbols for "peace" weighing down on it.

After witnessing the success and attention garnered by the painting at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Aaron was struck with the thought of what could be achieved if CHALK4PEACE was taken to a global level.

Literally the day after the D.C. event, Aaron began launching CHALK4PEACE around the world, with nothing but the money from his own pocket and artistic visions of peace.

Aaron started an email campaign — no blanket spamming, he stressed — individual emails to people, emphasizing his desire to personally reach out to the people he wrote. Thanks to word of mouth and brochures, the project gained recognition.

"Lo, and behold, it really started to come into its own," he said.

Some 14 months later, he is about to observe the fruits of his labor, as roughly 1,000 sites all over the world have pledged to sponsor chalk-painting sites. From California to South Africa, libraries, rec centers, and Boys and Girls Clubs have risen to the occasion. Close to 1 million children are expected to be part of this peace-infused affair.

In Arlington, sites will be at Barcroft, Glebe and H.B. Woodlawn elementary schools.

"The people who coordinated these sites are just a marvel, as far as I am concerned," Aaron said.

The Organization of American States has lent its support and provided a site; its Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza will talk to the children in the OAS main building.

Elba Molina of the OAS, heard about John Aaron and CHALK4PEACE after talking to some friends of hers who are part of an international artists’ organization. Soon, OAS became part of CHALK4PEACE’s growing fan base.

"I love to work with children, and I am an artist at the same time," said Molina. "Working for the secretary of political affairs, I understand how important it is to have peace and democracy."

Ronnie Freeman of the Clarendon Alliance, another vocal supporter of Aaron’s project, agrees with the significance of relaying the message in such a creative way, saying, "I think it’s magical."

Aaron’s hopes for what this magical event will accomplish are simple, yet resonating with emotion.

"Honestly, I hope that people will take notice that the children of the world want to change the course of how things are going," he said.