Nonviolence educator Indira Freitas Johnson with Buddha head emerging at Twiggs Park. Photo by Mary Mumbrue

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On May 19, Evanston residents celebrated the “Connections: Art and Peace at Twiggs Park” installation of the eighth of the ultimately 10 heads of the Buddha that will rise from disparate City locales.

Each statue is a 300-pound sand-filled, fiber glass-and-resin half-head of the iconically serene spiritual figure, bolted to a cement base. The heads are a symbol for peace in difficult times and places as envisioned by Evanston artist Indira Freitas Johnson, the arts organization Changing Worlds and the 10,000 Ripples project. They have been emerging all over the Chicago area in communities that strongly expressed a desire for them: 10 each in Albany Park, Pilsen, Rogers Park, South Chicago, Uptown, North Lawndale, Little Village, Auburn Gresham, Back of the Yards – and Evanston. 

In each community residents themselves decided whether to have the heads and where to put them, say Ms. Johnson and project manager Claire Geall Sutton. The peace project means something specific and different to each community. Evanstonians chose the theme “Coming Together, Bridging Differences.” Ms. Sutton says a great deal of credit for outreach and publicity for the project in Evanston go to environmental educator and program manager Claire Alden of the Ecology Center and to Evanston Cultural Arts/Arts Council Director Jeff Cory.

Daisy Hu of Big Heart Art at Blue Lotus Studio in Evanston offered colored chalk to celebrants; her children Mira and Zoey drew a mandala-like design close to the community gardens. Ms. Hu’s drawing, nearer the statue, looked like colorful flowing water.

Sarah Laing’s kids Julian and Anna hula hooped while their mom worked on an “interdimensional spider’s web” of string, ribbon and yarn, from which “dewdrops” (in the form of CDs) hung, reflecting each other and the weavers of all ages. The height of the web was just right for children to reach; grownups had to make their way carefully.

Some residents came by to visit; others stayed for a while: Patrick Stephens Jr., Teresa Collins in tow, kept his paper crown on while maneuvering a hula hoop throughout the festivities. Even Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and her dog Comet came to pay their respects.

Musician John Yost with Rhythm Revolution came and “drummed for peace,” as he says on Facebook. He shared percussion instruments – some people brought their own – and led a small but enthusiastic drum circle of all ages in engaging in music as “a metaphor to connect people with themselves and each other.” Participants included 6-year-old twins Lila and Thalia Selch, Deborah and Carlos Coleman, Betty Ester, and John Lamping and Helen Carlock of Rogers Park, for whom, they say, the project as a whole means a great deal. Mr. Lamping maintains the project’s Ten Thousand Ripples Facebook page. 

Two more heads of the Buddha will be rising in Evanston soon, further connecting the flock of sculptures that can be found as far south as Howard Street and Callan Avenue, as far north as Twiggs Park, west at James Park, and east at Dawes Park. With the last of the heads the project will, in a sense, however, have just begun.

As Ms. Johnson says, “We are all becoming.”