More about Joel Selmeier’s peace poles

What does peace look like?

​How can we visually represent the moral, political and spiritual dimensions of peace? 

Someone knitted peace and wrapped it around a phone pole.

Fortunately, a visual vocabulary was established by the founder and by all of the people who followed by “planting” poles displaying the traditional text: 
“May peace prevail on earth”

Masahisa Goi

Shortly after the Second World War he, Masahisa Goi, planted the first peace pole in Japan. There they have a tradition of makng posts with vertical text on them. So Goi wrote “May peace prevail on earth” in Japanese on one and had it translated into a different language on each side.

“Peace” in his Handwriting

Handwritten Japanese

Someone else wanted one and it became a movement.

The same “Peace” in a Japanese font

Now more than 200,000 peace poles have been planted everywhere from the North Pole to the Gaza Strip, often in ceremonies at which they have been dedicated by everyone from President Jimmy Carter to Mother Theresa.

“Peace” in Mandarin

Glass melted on copper
Wouldn’t it be cool to make peace poles out of that?

As you can see the Chinese word for peace is the same as the Japanese, except with the characters in reverse order. China had an alphabet for about 3,000 years before Japan and Japan borrowed from it. 

Sometimes working on these translations takes more time than making the peace poles. Translations aside, it usually takes about ten weeks for me to make one. Although, if you really are in a rush, I probably can make your deadline, depending on what you order.

Above is the color of patina on a copper Peace Pole when it is new.

It took a few years of experimenting  to get a patina on copper that I liked. This one needs a few months in the rain to tone down the blues and bring out the darker undertones.

The color of rust on the exterior of my welding shed.

The color of my welding shed above could be on a peace pole for someone who likes rust.

Glass peace pole

I experimented with making them out of glass and a variety of other materials. 

Even wood a long time ago

Wooden carved peace poles
Carved wooden peace pole languages

Most of the peace poles that people make are wooden posts that are 3 and a half inches wide and, once planted, about 6 feet tall. I make them wider and taller to give them “presence” to legitimize the message. And I make them out of materials that last for generations. More often than not mine go to parks, campuses or churches.

​Cap for a peace pole at a Dojo in Sweden

Patinated copper cap for Swedish dojo peace pole
Copper peace pole cap

Once I made one for a family designing a garden around it for their daughter’s wedding.

Design of landscaping for a park

Quite a few have been given as gifts, sometimes from a scout troop or a graduating class after a period of fund raising. Sometimes to a soldier as a homecoming gift.

Paver layout design around a 5-sided peace pole

Peace pole landscaping paver design

​Years can be spent raising funds. Such was the case for the peace pole below. It was planted by the Westminster High School in Maryland. They needed a place to grieve after a tragedy, so they built a plaza with seating around their limestone peace pole.

Westminster High School, Maryland, Limetone Peace Pole
Westminster High School, Maryland, Stone Peace Pole

Broad community support is common for these efforts, as was shown in an article in the Miami Herald in 2006 about the Opa-locka peace pole saying, “This unveiling is part of ongoing initiatives . . . to teach elementary school children how to resolve conflict.” As partners making this possible they listed:
A Department of Justice grant to the Opa-locka Police
The non-profit group “Non-Violence Project USA”
The Opa-locka Elementary School
Atlantic Hosiery
Opa-locka/Hialeah Flea Market
Cigarette Racing Team

Copper peace dove with olive branch

I have made art that was about peace but that wasn’t peace poles, like the dove with olive branch above (30 inch long wings) and the painting of pacifist Einstein below, but I don’t often because trying to make a better peace pole takes all of my time.

Peace Pole caps I discarded

William de Kooning worked for a year and a half on his “Woman,” applying paint, scraping it away, starting over, painting over the top of it, mixing large volumes of paint with solvent or water or eggs to delay its drying so that he could keep working and reworking it.

For me peace poles are like that, but with piles of scrap metal afterwards.

I threw these away too

I am not sure why more people do not arrange interior illumination when getting this kind of peace pole. You just call an electrician and remind him/her no galvanized metal can touch copper or stainless (plastic utility boxes and stainless fasteners are available at any HomeDepot-like store) and put a single spotlight inside. The tops are removable for changing the bulb every ten years.

Caps in Progress

Pre-Scrap

What can be done to make them speak more evocatively? 

Leaning on welding shed at dawn

What can make peace poles more of a part of the communities in which they stand? I continually work on that.

“Art can imagine a different future.” – Maya Lin

“Knowledgeable, clear-minded thinking applied to effort can create the future that art imagines.” – Joel  Selmeier

Below I’m Imagining

Stainless Cratered Possible Peace Pole

International Day of Peace
September 21 is the United Nation’s annual International Day of Peace marking the anniversary of the passing of the “General Assembly Declaration on the Right of Peoples to Peace.” That declares, among other things, that the preservation of the right of peoples to peace and the promotion of its implementation constitute a fundamental obligation of each State.

Some who promote the anniversary say it is celebrated by someone in almost every country on earth.

It is the deadline for the majority of peace poles created each year.
​I catch my breath a month later.

International Flags at a Peace Pole Dedication Ceremony at Hopesprings in Peebles, Ohio

If you find yourself muttering, “If I don’t get to cut steel tomorrow, I shall go mad,”  you might be a sculptor waiting for an injury to heal.