CHALK 4 PEACE by Jerry Downs

Dear Yoko and Imagine Peace team – Thank you for the part you played in promoting Chalk4Peace by announcing it on your site. Here is my latest photo-essay-email that I send to thousands of people around the world after my photo adventures. Keep doing all you do on behalf of us all. Jerry


Hello my dear friends.

It’s been a busy month since my last message. In September I had the pleasure to document CHALK4PEACE at three different sites around the San Francisco Bay Area. I was accompanied by the founder of this event, my good friend and fellow artist, John Aaron.

The event is as John would say, “….is not political. This is not an anti-war event. Fighting against war just ends up making you angry. It is simply an event for children of all ages to express their own vision of peace.” His work and the good will of a few friends, small businesses and the magic of the internet has turned this simple idea into an international event.

We began our journey at the Beach Element School in Piedmont, in the East Bay. I loved observing the inherent creativity that all children possess.

This creativity, this self-expression is exactly what these children, as well as the rest of us, will draw upon to create our future.


It was fun to see the diversity of expression and enlightening to see how different points of view can all contribute to make the whole even more beautiful.


As I walked around the large playground I occasionally passed the same child patiently working on her own vision of a peaceful world. The size and complexity of the project did not intimidate her. It was inspirational watching her calmly make each deliberate step one after another.
When she ran into a problem, like running out of the color purple, she made a creative decision and just kept moving. It was clear that she was happy with the world she had created. It was equally clear that she was just as happy watching it come into being.


Our next stop was ZEUM Children’s Museum in downtown San Francisco. The angelic child drawing the sun reminded me of the Picasso quote: “Some painters transform the sun into a yellow spot; others transform a yellow spot into the sun.” She and all the children certainly transformed the day with their radiance. That’s probably what attracted the two “love birds.”


It was equally fun watching the parents. It was such a joy watching a couple teach their young son how to make a peace sign so they all could shine their shadow on the artwork they created as a family. For many of the children participating around the world this was not their first experience with Chalk4Peace. With all the other input children have, it delighted me that one of their future childhood memories will include this special day that happens each September.


John relayed a number of stories from parents about what their children were teaching them. Most of them put in terms of, “remembering something that I had forgotten.” This joyful abandon was again demonstrated at our last stop at MOCHA (Museum of Children’s Art) in Oakland.


All of the imaginative drawings were filled with a vitality and joy. Each was an expression created by young (and young at heart) artists who definitely weren’t afraid to get their hands dirty.

I’m sure that one of the things that added to the spirit of the art was knowing that on this same day thousands of other children, across America and around the world, were on their hands and knees creating their own vision of peace. The children drawing the dove were in Ireland. The man in the middle is Rev. Roan Smith, the pastor of St. George’s Cathedral in South Africa. It was on these same steps that Nelson Mandela and Rev. Desmund Tutu announced the end of apartheid.


Thanks for joining me for this most colorful and peaceful day. I’ll leave you with this joyful artwork from the Beach School that breaks free of the borders. Borders may separate us, but they are also where we touch. Always a good place to begin finding common ground.


Have a joyous day!
Love, Jerry 

Jerry Downs Photography

P.O. Box 1082
Larkspur, CA 94977

Thanks to all the individual organizers, participants and fellow photographers who bring Chalk4Peace to life.

A special thanks to Yoko Ono, who heard about C4P from a friend of a friend of a friend, and announced the event on the IMAGINE PEACE site.

And a most special thanks to John Aaron, who, with extremely limited funds and an extraordinarily large heart created this event.

If you would like to be a part of this event you can donate money, a computer, an accountant, a car,
your time. You can organize your own event next year, suggest a contact or simply send your comments.

You can contact John directly at:
Phone: 248-720-9119
Email: [email protected]

The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit, and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.
— Black Elk (1863-1950)


A Story about CHALK4PEACE from Piedmont, California by John Aaron

Chalk 4 Peace

featured Sept. 5, 2008 at

Sponsored by P.A.I.N.T.S./ Beach Dad’s Club
Beach School, Piedmont, California
14 September, 2008


The story…
No wind all day until now.
The chalk dust swirls about the young artists as they step back to admire their drawings.
Rainbow clouds dance to the tune of the childrens’ laughter.
Seasoned artists now, in their second or third years of the project, they are covered with color- Green hair, purple knees, blue and orange faces, multi-colored hands
There are hundreds of them here today, determined to make a difference .
Few stars shine as brightly as the smiles on their faces
As they proudly proclaim their efforts to share peace with the world.
One young fellow, impeccably dressed in white, spotless, leads me over to a flag
he drew.
“There,” he says, ” I want to make sure you know that Mongolia is represented in CHALK4PEACE”
I turn away, eyes filling with mist; I was not ready for that.
I ask a beautiful little girl, a survivor of cancer, to show me what she drew.
She takes off like a deer, carefully avoiding stepping on anyone else’s drawing
to lead me to her pink and green sky…”but you should see my sister’s drawing-
she’s REALLY good!”
Ten year old Ambassadors to the World drawing together for Peace.
Taking on the Task with their own dusty hands.
High fiving EVERYBODY creating more clouds of color.
There are thousands more like them painting the sidewalks across the world.
All with a purpose to connect with art and peace and joy and color.
and to know other young artists are making their mark 4 peace
Parents tell me their children are teaching them lessons about peace and love
they had forgotten.
But it’s coming back so clearly now.
Now that it’s been dusted off.

Story by John Aaron, CEO and Global Project Founder of CHALK4PEACE
[email protected]
[email protected]

photo: Jerry Downs Photography- Beach School CHALK4PEACE 2008

Photogalleries of CHALK4PEACE 2008