Fremd student's peace pole project encourages harmony, inclusiveness
Courtney Murphy, a senior at Fremd High School, has an ambitious goal: She hopes to see 100 peace poles set up in Palatine by the International Day of Peace, which is Sept. 21.
So far, she's well on her way.
Over the summer, Courtney casually discussed peace poles with Kathy Millin, executive director of Partners for Our Communities in Palatine. Its Community Resource Center at Rand and Dundee roads provides an array of multilingual services for area residents.
That simple exchange sparked an idea with Courtney. She loved the artistic messages embodied in these handcrafted poles, but even more she connected with their message of standing as symbols that encourage harmony and inclusiveness in communities.
Together with her mother, Vickie Wessels-Murphy, they started a campaign called "Painting Peace." Within a month of her conversation with Millin, Courtney started painting peace poles and eventually began holding workshops to encourage others to join her.
Millin offered them space outside the Community Resource Center for the workshops. For each one, Courtney and her mother bought, painted and primed the poles so that they were ready to go when guest painters arrived.
Poles range in size from a desktop version to three-foot poles and six-foot garden poles, most made of wood. So far, people have personalized them in an array of colors and with a heartfelt message.
"People use their own thoughts, quotes, or poetry, all with the intention of spreading a little more peace, love, and light in this world," Vickie says.
She points to her daughter as the one who is spearheading the campaign.
"It's all about peacebuilding and community building," Courtney says, "and giving people a great creative outlet."
That was the case at one of three workshops they held in August. Nancy Kontney of Palatine, a longtime teacher in Barrington Area Unit District 220, gathered some of her friends to come out and paint.
Most were teachers, and they came prepared, using stickers, stencils and small embellishments before expressing their peace messages in freehand.
Their themes ranged from bumblebees to flowers to John Lennon's iconic lyrics: "Imagine all the people living life in peace," as Michelle Kern of Mundelein so carefully inscribed on her pole.
"I love the freedom of being able to put what we want on our poles -- and of supporting the idea of peace in our world, especially now," said Kontney, who was creating her second peace pole for her lake house.
Emily Radtke of Palatine worked with her two daughters, Morgan and Olivia, to create their pole.
"With everything going on, it's good to be centered and have purpose in life," Morgan Radtke said.
The workshops quickly gained traction and led to community groups wanting to participate. They included youth groups from Countryside Church Unitarian Universalist in Palatine and one from the POC itself.
Honor students from Harper College chose to hold a peace pole workshop for their Day of Service this month. Another 50 supporters will be creating their own peace poles at a farm-to-table fundraiser later this month at Soulful Prairies in Woodstock to benefit the POC.
Given this growing support, Courtney and her mother are confident they will reach their goal in time for the International Day of Peace, established in 1981 by the United Nations.
"We hope to have these landmarks around town," Courtney says. "It's our way of creating peace in our own community."