Lanesboro Arts is proud to present “In Peace, With Honor,” a multi-disciplinary arts and cultural program designed to connect Minnesotans of all ages with both historical and contemporary stories of war, peace and reconciliation through films, literary events, art and history exhibitions, discussions, and educational activities September 21-30 in Lanesboro. Developed in partnership with Minnesota author Caren Stelson, “In Peace, With Honor” utilizes art and cultural exchanges as a platform for storytelling, understanding and reconciliation.
On September 21, 2013, Lanesboro resident and WWII veteran Captain Orval Amdahl returned a handcrafted Japanese WWII sword, a war trophy he had taken from Nagasaki with U.S. Government permission, to the son of the Japanese soldier who originally owned it. With the help of the St. Paul-Nagasaki Sister City Committee, the Amdahl family and the Motomura family of Nagasaki were brought together at Como Park in St. Paul. Over 300 people came to witness this moving example of peace and reconciliation, many of them Lanesboro friends.
Caren Stelson interviewed Orval Amdahl in the fall of 2012, while researching her book, Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story. After the interview, Orval said, “Can I show you something?” He brought out the Japanese sword he had been oiling for decades. Orval told Caren, “I want to give this back in peace, with honor.” With those words, a journey to return the sword began.
Orval’s story attracted attention on an international scale, a symbol of peace and reconciliation between two nations and two peoples. A “The Return of the Sword” presentation and discussion with the Amdahl family, Caren Stelson and JoAnn Blatchley of the St. Paul-Nagasaki Sister City committee is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 21, the International Day of Peace, at the St. Mane Theatre, 206 Parkway Ave N. in Lanesboro.
“The Return of the Sword” presentation and discussion is an opportunity to honor veterans while sharing the story of the sword more broadly and deeply. The event will serve as a powerful starting point for 10 days of programs that include the Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard documentary film and companion art exhibit at the St. Mane Theatre.
Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard, produced by Shizumi Shigeto Manale and directed by Bryan Reichhardt, tells the story of a collection of surprisingly joyful drawings created in 1947 by school children living among the ruins of Hiroshima. After hearing of the dismal conditions of the Hiroshima schools, the congregation of All Souls Church Unitarian in Washington D.C. shipped art and school supplies to Hiroshima for the children’s use. In 1948, the children’s drawings were sent from Hiroshima to the Washington D.C. church as a thank-you for the materials, then displayed around the country with funds from the U.S. Government. When the pictures were returned to the church, they were stored away for safekeeping for nearly five decades. In 1995, the drawings were rediscovered and their story was slowly pieced together. Melvin Hardy, then All Souls Church’s Administrator, and other church members formed a group to restore and reframe the pictures. In 2006, Shizumi Shigeto Manale visited the church and viewed the children’s pictures. Inspired by the story behind the pictures, Shizumi returned to her home city of Hiroshima to reunite the student artists, now in their 70s and 80s, with their original drawing and to produce a film that reflects on war, peace, and hope. Prints of the original drawings on loan from All Souls Church Unitarian will be on display in the St. Mane Theatre lobby before events and from 1-5 p.m. September 21-23 and 28-30. Shizumi and Melvin Hardy will be in Lanesboro for a discussion about the drawings and film following a public screening of the Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard documentary at the St. Mane Theatre on Saturday, September 30 at 7:30 p.m.
A history exhibition called “From War to Reconciliation” will also be on display in the upper level studio space of the St. Mane Theatre from 1-5 p.m. September 21-23 and 28-30. Developed by the Hiroshima and Nagasaki National Peace Memorial Halls for Atomic Bomb Victims, the exhibition will be presented on loan from the St. Paul-Nagasaki Sister City Committee. The exhibit includes 47 posters that tell the difficult history of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the closing days of WWII. From the atomic blast, to survival, to recovery, to a call from the elimination of nuclear weapons, this exhibition will remind all who visit that the world must never again experience nuclear war.
On Saturday, September 23 at 2 p.m. at Lanesboro Arts Gallery, author Caren Stelson is reading from, and sharing a presentation about, her new book, Sachiko: A Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Survivor’s Story. Her book is a striking work of narrative nonfiction that tells the true story of six-year-old Sachiko Yasui’s survival of the Nagasaki atomic bomb on August 9, 1945, and the heartbreaking and lifelong aftermath. Having conducted extensive interviews with Sachiko Yasui, Caren Stelson chronicles Sachiko’s long journey toward peace. This special book offers readers a remarkable new perspective on the final moments of WWII, the 50 years that followed, and the courage it took for one woman to tell her story of nuclear war and peace. Caren is also sharing a presentation on the book with students from Lanesboro Public Schools at the Lanesboro Public Library on Friday morning, September 22.
Finally, community members are invited to join Stelson, Mr. Hardy and Ms. Manale at the in the installation of a World Citizen Peace Pole and Peace Site dedication at Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center on Friday, September 29 at 1 p.m. that will also include the planting of a gingko tree that grew from a seed that survived the Hiroshima bombing (donated by the Avalon School in St. Paul).
“In Peace, With Honor” is presented by Lanesboro Arts, in collaboration with Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center. All events are free/freewill donation. More information is available via www.lanesboroarts.org; at Lanesboro Arts Gallery, (507) 467-2446 and at the St. Mane Theatre lobby.