29 Pieces

week 4:  this week i'm gonna... make peace through art

At 2am on August 19, 2000, someone banged on Karen Blessen's front door in the Lakewood neighborhood of Dallas, TX.  A man yelled, "Open the door and let me in! Open the door! Let me in!"

Karen and her husband then witnessed the aftermath of a random carjacking and robbery that left one young man shot and bleeding in the street.  David McNulty, 26, would die that night from a single gunshot wound to the back. 

from left: David in the 9th grade; as an 11th-grader playing basketball; graduating from high school in 1992; David at 26, several months before his death

from left: David in the 9th grade; as an 11th-grader playing basketball; graduating from high school in 1992; David at 26, several months before his death

The aftermath of David's tragic death included the arrest and imprisonment of three teenagers, post-traumatic stress for David's friends that were also involved in the attack, and much grief and suffering for all of the families involved - both victims and assailants.  For Karen, the events that occurred in front of her house had a profound effect, and the result was the creation of "One Bullet,” a deeply personal story published in The Dallas Morning News in 2003.  You can read Karen's story here.

Karen Blessen, Founder of 29 Pieces

Karen Blessen, Founder of 29 Pieces

Following “One Bullet,” Karen was compelled to do something to uplift children and adults, something to give them the courage and strength to stand against the violence that permeates our culture. In what Karen calls her creative “big bang,” a vision emerged: monumental change through monumental art.  Karen designed 29 sculptural models inspired by sacred passages, seeing them as monuments to peace that could be woven into the urban fabric of Dallas.  She established 29 Pieces to connect this vision to the community through arts education programs.

29 Pieces was established in 2005 and uses art to awaken, uplift and give voice to the creative human spirit to make genuine, positive social change. The name "29 Pieces" refers to the original idea of creating 29 full-scale monuments dedicated to the mission of peace.  This idea remains a goal of the organization, but working with children quickly became the main priority.  29 Pieces has now worked with thousands of kids, using an art-based curriculum to teach them how to take a stand against violence.

29 Pieces has several educational outreach programs,  including Artists Making a Kinder World and Peak Street Studio Workshops. Artists Making a Kinder World is an art-based, hands-on curriculum that teaches essential social values like kindness and compassion, and important life skills such as conflict resolution and analytical thinking.  Peak Street Studio Workshops conducts adult workshops using art, writing, and mindfulness where participants create a personal piece of artwork based on the words of the visionaries who inspired the original 29 Pieces of monumental sculpture.

Rendering of the proposed Piece 24

Rendering of the proposed Piece 24

29 Pieces celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2015 and revisited the idea of creating a public monument.  Piece 24 (of the original 29) was chosen, and local high school students were interviewed to participate in the project.  24 students were chosen, and each receives a $250 scholarship for every 30 hours that they work on the project.  

The students conceive, design, create and craft all of the projects that are part of Piece 24, including the final signature, a totem that will be placed in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas.  Many of the kids involved see the project as a way to foster neighborhood pride.

Piece 24 is inspired by the Native American prayer “Let Me Walk in Beauty” and “aims to spread the message of a ‘viral influence’ that inspires people to choose to be contagions of respect and compassion for all living things.”  In this way, Piece 24 responds to that original bullet that took David McNulty's life by spreading hope as an alternative to senseless violence.  The full scale 15-foot monument is expected to be unveiled in late spring 2016.

Please check out the video below to see more about the Piece 24 Project, as seen through the eyes of one student, Richard Rodriguez.

Notes for this week:

  • January is National Mentoring Month and January 31st is Inspire Your Heart With Art Day.
  • Our collective givetwig donation will sponsor scholarships for 2 students participating in the Piece 24 Project.
  • For further information regarding 29 Pieces, please check out their website.

this week i'm gonna donate to 29 Pieces.

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