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A Peace of My Mind: American Stories

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Type the word “peace” into Google and you’ll find more than 900 million results. We use the word peace to describe our state of being, a place that brings us comfort, a thing we hope for, or something we aim to achieve. Each description of the word depends on our own unique set of experiences and life view.

In a new exhibit at Breck, one artist, photographer, and storyteller is bringing this unique definition to life.

“For the last three years, I’ve driven 40,000 miles across the United States asking people these questions: ‘What does peace mean to you? How do you work towards it in your life? What are some of the obstacles you have encountered along the way?’” said John Noltner during the All School Chapel February 7. Noltner is the artist behind the exhibit.

The people behind these answers, as well as their stories, are included in the exhibit located in the Salas Commons now through March 6, which is sponsored by the Melrose Family Center for Servant Leadership. The goal is to help all of us see the beauty around us.

“I wondered if I could use my photography to find ways to connect us,” said Noltner. “I started to play around with this idea of peace – the idea of treating one another fairly and creating a world that could work well for everyone.”

For some Breck students and families, the exhibit may look a bit familiar after it was first displayed here in 2015. Since then, the exhibit has expanded from Minnesota-only stories to a nationwide perspective.

“We visited 46 states and I’ve done over 100 new interviews,” added Noltner, who explained his work since his last visit to Breck. In September, Noltner released a new book, “A Peace of my Mind: American Stories,” which features the stories included in the exhibit currently at Breck. It is the first time the Minnesota-native brought the exhibit back to his home state.

In addition to the exhibit, Noltner will also meet with Breck student-volunteers to hear their own stories. Following a short photo shoot, Noltner will compile the stories into a Breck-specific exhibit.

“We brought the exhibit back to Breck to give us an opportunity to think about what matters to us most,” says Kim Peeples, director of the Melrose Family Center for Servant Leadership. “We’ve developed our own question about a moment where someone has attempted to bridge a divide with you in order to heal or develop a relationship. Viewing this exhibit, listening, and thinking about the stories gives us the space to ask important questions of ourselves and really think deeply about our responses.”

The exhibit is open to guests and visitors and can be viewed during building hours. Included are 58 stories of peace as well as expanded content if the viewer has access to a smartphone. Stop by before it’s too late!