Cities of Peace: Healing the Trauma of Conflict Through Art

Ellen Frank and Luciana McClure

Imagine for a moment sitting in a room with daughters and sons of perpetrators and victims of the genocide in Kosovo.  Imagine these former enemies — Serbs and Albanians, Roma — joining together to create beautiful art to honor a city they share, and in the process, planting the seeds of enduring peace. Through the work of Cities of Peace, healing, dignity and understanding of seemingly different cultures is possible, reminding us that light and love are always within reach.

See this amazing shift first-hand and be in awe of the healing, dignity and understanding of two seemingly different cultures despite their recent history. When Cities of Peace went to Pristina, Kosovo we only dreamed of making interethnic reconciliation a reality.

Join visionary and inspiring leaders, Dr. Ellen Frank—founder Cities of Peace, an innovative peace and visual arts program that honors the history and culture of world cities that have suffered trauma and strife and multi visual artist, photographer and educator, Luciana McClure— for a conversation on how healing, dignity and understanding of seemingly different cultures is possible.

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Ellen Frank, Ph.D. 

It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.”

—Eleanor Roosevelt


Visionary and inspiring leader Dr. Ellen Frank founded Cities of Peace, an innovative peace and visual arts program that honors the history and culture of world cities that have suffered trauma and strife. Opening her door in 2004 through a single line ad on Craigslist, young people from 17 countries came to her tiny studio, sleeping on floors and couches, to create magnificent art transforming anguish into beauty. The gold-illuminated paintings refuse to show the horrors of war, blood and destruction. Instead the art, peacebuilding education and cultural diplomacy programs Dr. Frank designed celebrate the best of the human spirit. The work now has global impact, reaching from the EU to the Balkans and Caucuses, uniting artists and scholars from more than 25 countries.

Among the first non-profit organizations to combine social justice with the visual arts, Dr. Frank’s work challenges perception of war-ravaged cities to recognition of the historical greatness of these cities, rebuilding dignity where the social fabric has been torn apart. A pioneer, Dr. Frank is considered an Artist Peacebuilder in Europe, impacting policy from on the ground creative activism. For this work, Dr. Frank received an Honorary Doctorate in Armenia, an Award for Excellence from NATO for work in Kosovo. In 2018 Dr. Frank was named Fulbright Specialist for Peacebuilding and Reconciliation by United States Department of State.

Dr. Frank studied art history and connoisseurship at Yale University, the Courtauld and Warburg Institutes, and holds an interdisciplinary doctorate in English Literature and the Visual Arts from Stanford University. She was Assistant Professor of English Literature at UC Berkeley where she co-designed and created the first interdisciplinary major “Literature and the Visual Arts”; she was guest Associate Professor at Barnard College and Rutgers University, visiting professor at School of Visual Arts and Tyler School of Art. Her first book, Literary Architecture: Essays Toward a Tradition (University of California Press), was awarded the New York Institute for Graphic Arts 50 Best Books, Ronce & Coffin Club Design Award, and “Best Book in 50 Years” by University of California Press.

Dr. Frank’s many awards in painting, book design, and scholarship include a Fulbright Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts, Ford Foundation Fellowship, Pollock-Krasner Award in Painting, New York State Council on the Arts, and a New York Foundation for the Arts grant.

Luciana McClure

Luciana McClure is a photographer, artist, educator, a selfless advocate and a fierce motivator of social change through artistic expression and activism. She is the founding organizer of the Nasty Women Movement in Connecticut and leads Nasty Women Connecticut. She unites communities, amplifies the voices of minorities and raises resources for countless organizations throughout Connecticut while utilizing the arts.

Nasty Women Connecticut started as part of a global arts movement that started in NYC by Jessamyn Fiore who invited other feminist artists, makers, creators to join forces in curating their very own nasty Women art exhibition as an act of solidarity to women everywhere in response to current political climate.

The first Nasty Women Art Exhibition in New Haven, opened in March 2017 and it stopped the city of New Haven, in an exhibition that turned out to be a movement of activism, visual arts and intersectional feminism. Over 1000 people attended and a movement was born. Luciana is an immigrant of Brazil and she currently resides in Connecticut where she is a faculty professor of photography at Creative Arts Workshop, a Museum Educator at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, and an exhibiting fine art photographer. Most recently Luciana has been awarded the 2019 CT Arts Hero award through the CT Office of the Arts. Photo by Ikea Bakah

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