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Peace Wall unveiled outside library

Fragile fabric panels bearing messages of peace have been transformed into permanent tiles now on display in front of the Ashland Public Library.

On Monday evening — which was International Peace Day — the tiles were unveiled before an appreciative crowd gathered outside the library.

"It seems so fitting to unveil and dedicate Ashland's Peace Wall on this very day," said Nancy Bardos, who has been working with other volunteers on the project.

Adults from the Peace Choir ensemble as well as teens from the Youth Peace Choir entertained the crowd with arrangements by the late Rogue Valley musical group leader Dave Marston, as well as classics such as Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind."

Back in March 2007, artist Jean Bakewell was having dinner with friends when she shared her idea to cover a chain link fence running along the railroad tracks in Ashland with panels promoting peace.

On the eve of Mother's Day in 2007, a large group fastened 67 panels to the fence.

The collection of panels from kids, adults and seniors grew to more than 200 pieces, with some coming from as far away as Canada and Norway.

Vandals tore down the display in 2008, but the panels had been photographed.

A waving metal frame in front of the library is now partly filled with tiles printed with the photographic images of many of the panels.

Organizers are about one-quarter of the way to their goal of raising $25,000 to fund the Peace Wall.

"We need money," Bakewell said bluntly at the dedication ceremony, noting that any amount — whether $5 or thousands of dollars — would be greatly appreciated.

Tax deductible donations can be made by sending checks to the local nonprofit Peace House at P.O. Box 524, Ashland, OR 97520. Write "Peace Wall" on the check memo line.

Other organizations and businesses have also stepped forward to help with the project, including Illahe Studios & Gallery, Lithia Artisans Market, D.A. Boldt Construction, Ashland Fabrication, the Ashland Public Library and Friends of the Library.

The project was endorsed by the Ashland Public Arts Commission and the Ashland City Council voted in March to allow installation of the tiles in front of the library.

Public Arts Commissioner Jennifer Longshore said she will always have strong memories of the original Peace Fence made with fabric panels, but she's glad the images are now in a more permanent form.

An art instructor at Southern Oregon University, Longshore said she is teaching students about activist art in a class.

"I am so thrilled to know I can bring them to this wall and show them something great that this community did," she said.

For more information about the Peace Wall, visit www.peacefence.org/pwall.htm.

Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.