Dove with olive branch sits atop 9-foot basalt sculpture by MH library
By Marty Cheek
Humanity’s path to peace may reach a milestone Wednesday, Sept. 21, at the Morgan Hill Civic Plaza. At 5:30 p.m. on the United Nations’ International Day of Peace, a work of public art will be unveiled. The sculpture intends to remind people that achieving the noble goal of a world forever free of wars is indeed possible.
The Peace Project Monument is a dream started more than a decade ago by Morgan Hill sisters Janet Librers-Leach and Monica McClintock. Their idea started as a simple metal “peace pole” to be placed in a public location. During the years as they worked with renown Silicon Valley artist David Middlebrook, the idea evolved into something far more magnificent.
During a heatwave in early September, Middlebrook’s 9-foot-tall obelisk-like basalt sculpture was installed in a grassy space near the library. It shows the word “peace” in various languages (including inlaid beads for Braille) carved into the sides. A dove with an olive branch tops the monument. Three basalt benches are placed around the artwork for passersby to sit and ponder the possibility of peace on the planet.
The journey to its installation was an arduous one for the two women. After getting approval from the city for the final design, they began raising funds through the Morgan Hill Community Foundation. (The total cost of the project is $61,000.) Donations included $1 bills from children who care about peace to a generous $5,000 gift.
For Librers-Leach, the monument represents the diversity of the South Valley community and world. She hopes it inspires the people who view it to work for a better world.
“It brings us together for a common good, to be a symbol to foster acceptance, tolerance, unity, friendship and inclusion,” she said. “It is a light or beacon for hope. It shows Morgan Hill stands for building bridges, creating safe spaces, and celebrating all our contributions no matter who we are or where we come from. It makes us a ‘we.’”
The monument and the meditation space around it will inspire others to realize peace is possible if all people work together to make it happen, she said.
“Maybe the ‘wow factor’ of all the words of peace (on the sides) will touch something inside them to think about what peace means to them,” she said. “If people begin to think about peace, maybe they will reflect on what that really is. There is no peace with poverty, violence, hunger, ignorance, or a lack of tolerance, education or health, or a healthy environment.”
For McClintock, the Peace Monument is a symbol of a commitment to creating peaceful and inclusive communities. It will also serve as the perfect gathering place to hold events that encourage and inspire each other, she said.
“The citizens of Morgan Hill are loving and caring,” she said. “They always step up to support people who need a hand. During our fundraising events I was so inspired by our friends and neighbors who donated to bring this monument to fruition. The monument truly belongs to the citizens of our wonderful town.”
She hopes the artwork, with its many languages, demonstrates how all humanity has strived to achieve peace for thousands of years. She believes in the importance of all people doing the hard work to achieve world peace. To create that more peaceful work, all people must receive an education, feel safe, be fed, be housed, and receive medical/mental services. And most of all, all people need to feel like they belong, like they matter, McClintock said.
“We all have a word for the state of the world we dream of and together we can achieve it,” she said. “David Middlebrook inspired me as he sculptured this beautiful piece. He shared with us how his view of peace changed on his journey. The dove is either landing, bringing peace, or leaving, bringing peace elsewhere. The branch is very large, almost too large for the dove to carry, symbolizing that achieving world peace is hard.”
The message of the Peace Project Monument for McClintock is a simple one:
“Achieving peace, above all, takes a serious commitment and sacrifice from our citizens. In this light, Morgan Hill now has a place to gather, meditate, and share ideas for achieving our dream of global peace.”
Like her sister, Librers-Leach considers herself an optimist. She hopes the monument’s message to viewers’ hearts is that peace is not just an unattainable dream but that it is possible if people take the time to notice human beings are all more alike than they are different.
“We can be hopeful, we can work for change, we can make a difference,” she said. “I hope the monument stands as a light or beacon of hope for all from now until all eternity.”