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Locals create fabric pieces for traveling peace flag
Layers of peace flag illustrations from six continents are installed on Monday at the Main Street Gallery. Staff photo by Dustin Safranek

Daily News Staff Writer

On Monday, more than 50 Ketchikan community members and cruise ship visitors were able to contribute to an art project that is traveling the world.

The Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities Council and the Ketchikan Public Library hosted the art installation at the Main Street Gallery, where artist Joseph Vasile, who is also an art teacher in Myanmar, guided dozens of people how to create a small peace flag and help design the Longya-Fied project.

Both art installations will be presented in many countries around the world, and were started in the hopes of spreading unity and world peace. Those who attended the event on Monday drew their symbol of peace, whatever that might be, on either a red, green, white, blue or yellow square.

The peace flag created with these squares in Ketchikan will eventually be joined with more than 20,000 peace flags that have been created on six continents. At the local event, people were to choose their flag color — white for wind, green for water, blue for sky, red for fire and yellow for Earth.

Next, Vasile told people to draw something that makes them happy. It could be sports, school subjects, music, words, hobbies and more. When Jennifer Castle and Timothy Castle finished their flags, Vasile glued their squares together to start the peace flag that will represent Alaska around the globe.

“Mine was showing … the people of the world all holding hands, and also water and dolphins because that’s what makes me happy,” Jennifer Castle said.

Timothy Castle’s square seemed to resonate with Vasile, who said he has never seen a flag like Timothy Castle created.

“I made a peace sign and then it had a rock, and a scissor, and a paper all holding hands, and it said, ‘Let’s all get along please,’” Timothy Castle explained. “Then I did two things I really like, Rubik’s cubing and trampolines, I did that inside the peace sign.”

Vasile said Ketchikan will be the only city to represent Alaska at museums and other public places around the world — for a few reasons. Among those reasons, Vasile said Ketchikan was the first city to embrace the project.

“This project is about community and Ketchikan has such a strong community, so I think doing the project in a bigger (city) in Alaska would be great and wonderful, but (I chose to have) it in a small and intimate (community), where the kids and all generations are coming together and speaking the universal language of art, and gluing pieces and coming together, ” Vasile explained.

The other project laid out on a table at the Arts Council was the quilt-like Longya-Fied project containing a silhouette of the United States. Vasile explained that longyis are what local Burmese and Myanmar people wear, and they have traditional patterns that represent their state. The first creation for the Longya-Fied series was the Burmese edition, according to Vasile.

Vasile has been traveling the country, and at each workshop he hosts in the 50 states over the next few years, event-goers are tasked with filling in their state by gluing colorful Burmese textiles to the project. He said it will take about two years to get every state filled.

Vasile, who was visiting Ketchikan on a cruise ship, said he would display the creations in other Alaska cities he visits. His next workshop will be in Washington.

The United States Longya-Fied project is one of many that Vasile has helped create, as series has already been created in Myanmar, Denmark, India, Australia, Malaysia, Cambodia, Columbia, Italy, Greece, France, Malta, Japan, Thailand, Monte Carlo, Germany, England, Haiti, Vietnam, Spain and Stonehenge, United Kingdom.

Each one has its own small quilt-like project, and Vasile said that one was presented to the Pope, and some of his students are currently in Japan creating a project for the Longya-Fied series.

The goal of it all, according to Vasile, is to see the world connected with one common aesthetic — art. To be able to walk into a gallery and see every country represented with the Longya-Fied project, knowing that it was created in that country by people all around the world.

“Probably the most exciting part is that it’s going on display at the Parliament of the World's Religions, which was founded in 1893 I believe, as a way to have an open dialogue between all the different faiths and religions, and it happens every couple years,” Vasile noted. “Nelson Mandela was the keynote speaker when it was in Africa.”

Vasile said this year it will take place in Toronto, where he will present a few of the projects. Jennifer Castle seemed excited about that.

“We came out today mostly because I feel like it’s important for people to feel more a sense of connectedness, and the idea that we’re drawing something here in Ketchikan, it’s going to go on around the world and other people will get to see it, is pretty neat,” Jennifer Castle said. “Also the fact that we were able to look at art that’s been all over the world, some drawn by children in other places kind of helps us feel more part of the same world.”