Outdoors, snow still stands in dirty drifts. But inside the Ecology Center on the day that marks the debut of meteorological spring, warmth and optimism prevail.

Participants in Flight for Peace, the City’s second and final Winter HeARTh event for 2015, are folding their communal hopes for peace into the creases of a growing flock of bright-colored origami cranes.

Japanese tradition holds that the person who creates senbazuru – a group of 1,000 paper cranes held together by string – will have a wish granted by a crane, a holy bird thought to live a thousand years.

The thousand origami cranes were linked with peace through the true story of Sadako Sasaki, a Japanese girl who was exposed to radiation from the atomic bombing of Hiroshima during World War II. Sadako died of leukemia before she could finish the 1,000 cranes she believed might make her well. On Aug. 6, which they call Peace Day, Japanese children bring origami cranes to a statue of Sadako that bears her words: This is our cry,/this is our prayer,/peace in the world.

To make 1,000 good-luck birds and a collective wish for peace, then, is the “practical goal” of the March 1 program, says Jason Brown, project coordinator for the City’s Cultural Arts Division.
The act of crafting the cranes seems a natural means to “foster conversation about … peace in a creative way,” say Mr. Brown and Jennifer Lasik, arts coordinator for the City of Evanston. Among the responses they received from Evanston houses of worship and meditation was a boxful of cranes made by the middle-school children
of St. Matthews Episcopal Church.

At the event, attendees, most of them adults, sit at long tables, talking quietly while a wood fire crackles and their nimble fingers fly. Illustrated instructions for folding the cranes are laid out. But as event coordinators had hoped, “People [are] learning from each other and relying on the community to teach [them],” Mr. Brown says.

Bob Colman needs no instruction. On the table in front of him is an array of small boxes he folded at home, each holding a necklace and earrings handmade by his wife. The couple has always done crafts, Mr. Colman says, but with his retirement, they are working together for the first
time. He is hoping Ms. Lasik can suggest a nonprofit
group to which they might donate their handiwork.

Aislynn Lasik, 13 and a King Laboratory School
student, turns her attention from folding to drawing original designs on plain white paper squares. Across the room, Mr. Brown and Arts Council member Fran Joy thread together completed cranes. And from the far end
of the hall flow the serene strains of classical music played by a cello and two violins of the Fused Muse
Ensemble. The music buoys the work of folding and stitching so it seems effortless.

This peace event dovetails well with the mission of Fused Muse. Artistic director/cellist Sophie Webber, who teaches at the Music Institute, says the group aims to “connect with the community … increasing awareness of global concerns … [by] telling stories through the arts.”

For three years, Fused Muse has picked a theme – homelessness for 2015 – and has joined with other arts groups to gather human stories and bring the issues to life. Dancer Matthew McMunn is performing with them at the Ecology Center.

Given their “scarce resources and same audiences,” Ms. Lasik sees the value of collaboration among City groups and agencies, too – of “pulling departments and organizations together [like the Cultural Arts Division/Ecology Center partnership today] to work toward goals.

“Art is a vehicle for solving problems,” she says. “That’s what we’re doing here.”

Ms. Lasik moved to Evanston from Wyoming a year and a half ago to assume the new position of City of Evanston Cultural Arts Coordinator. She sees two facets to her job: “to find venues for professional artists” and “to enable community members to participate” in the arts. “Art is not a thing, it’s a way,” she says. She aims to “make sure it is accessible to everyone in Evanston.”

Last year, at the suggestion of Mr. Brown
and members of an Arts Council committee, the City launched the Winter HeARTh series. Knitplosion produced the whimsical “yarnbombs” – cheerful yarn creations wrapped around downtown trees and bike racks – and the evanescentinstallation IceScape, which was created by nearly 200 residents who brought their own food coloring and colored ice to decorate the natural ice formations on Lee Street beach and which disappeared two days later, when temperatures rose.

The first Winter HeARTh event for 2015 was SplatterDance, a City partnership with the Northwestern
University Dance Marathon and Downtown Evanston. Braving a snowstorm, participants gathered at 909 Davis Plaza and, wearing painted shoes, created Jackson Pollack-like paintings by executing dance moves across two large, blank canvases.

Though Flight for Peace participants, like Sadako, failed to finish 1,000 cranes, their 500 birds, when hung
in the Ecology Center, will make a strong statement. At best, this afternoon of wishful crafting in Evanston will give wing to peace. At least, the event has brought people in from the cold to create beauty and celebrate community.

Winter weather can be isolating, says Ms. Lasik,
“but the art is cozy.”