Art Vs War: Peace of Art takes aim at Juarez Violence

Tuesday, November 16, 2010 4:56 AM
This story ran in The What's Up Publication, Volume 12 No. 8, November 10-16, 2010

Art vs. War: ‘Peace of Art’ takes aim at Juarez violence
By Marina Monsisvais

Doing nothing is easy. Feeling nothing is hard. Every day we hear about the countless deaths that are happening in our sister city and for the most part, we go about our regular business. The question is – do we feel anything?

For Sandra Salas, it was her initial non-reaction upon hearing of the massacre at Villas de Salvarcar in Juarez on Jan. 31, when 16 students were killed, that would spark a project known as Peace of Art.

Salas was with friends when the news story broke. They had plans for dinner and a movie. Like the rest of us, they went about their business.

“I couldn’t believe I did that,” she says. “I was like, ‘oh pobrecitos,’ let’s go to a movie.”

But the sinking feeling would not go away. The killing made no sense. Sixteen students, many of them members of the same soccer team, with unlikely ties to the drug cartels, targeted for what? A random act of violence amidst not-so-random acts of cartel violence? Any way she examined the situation, it just didn’t make compute to Salas. Still left without words, Salas expresses her angst with a tight shrug of the shoulders, closed eyes and shaking head.

Salas, a graphic designer by trade, applied her frustration the only way she knew how — through art.

“That got me to do a really sarcastic sketch that never became a poster,” Salas said.

That’s when she picked up the phone and called her now partner-in-crime, Richard Luna, whom she had met at a business networking event, to propose the idea of helping her put together Peace of Art. Back then, it was conceived as a one-night-only exhibit presenting posters of social protest designed by professional and student designers to create awareness of the violence in Juarez.

“Her call came right on time,” said Luna, who was looking for opportunities to give back to his community. “It’s a good fit; she’s the creative one and I’m the practical one.”

What was meant to be a one-night-only event continues to experience an organic growth.

“It tells us what the next step is,” said Salas who cited several examples of the natural evolution the exhibit has taken — the biggest being that the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juarez (UACJ) was also doing a call to artists for a very similar project. Peace of Art joined forces with the UACJ and the exhibit has become a binational effort, with each entity having its own set of 91 posters that it shares with its community.

Additionally, Peace of Art has shown at Oberlin College, which has sparked interest from other universities such as Yale and Dartmouth. It has also shown in Costa Rica; Aguas Calientes, Peru; and San Luis Potosi, Mexico. The momentum keeps on going with talks of a second edition of posters, a documentary, 501c3 status, more international and national shows and possibly a book.

Peace of Art has set up a fund through the Frontera Women’s Foundation that will funnel monies to victims of violence in Juarez. Anyone can donate by visiting the Peace of Art website at

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