Joleen Weller decided to spread the word and the word is PEACE.

She teaches art and photography at East High, and for the last unit of the year in her intro art classes her students are hard at work painting “peace poles” they hope to place on business campuses throughout the community.

The Peace Pole Project is a global movement that’s coalesced around this mantra: “May Peace Prevail on Earth.”

You can order a pole direct from the PPP. Or, here in Des Moines, you can get one fresh from the studio at East!

“I wanted them to do a project that went outside themselves,” said Weller as her first block class resumed work on their poles Tuesday morning. “Something to tie in with the design element of unity. So I came up with this. MidAmerican Energy is a business partner at East and they provided the lumber.”

Students grabbed their poles from the stack in the corner like Lilliputians lugging giant pencils and carefully navigated into a workspace. Some sprawled on the floor.

The poles are at various stages of completion. Some concepts are still being sketched and others ingrained with wood-burning pens. Another batch lacks only finishing touches. Depending on where they are in the process, some students wore smocks and picked up fine-pointed brushes after putting down their heavy load, like surgeons donning gowns before wielding a scalpel.

“Altogether we will produce 24 poles,” said Weller. They are either six or eight feet in length and squared, so “each of my intro students is responsible for one side of a pole.”

Joe Sember is a 9th grader who used the four seasons of trees to convey the wish, “May peace fill your heart.”

“I’m not a very good artist,” she said, contradicting her t-shirt, which read: CONFIDENT. “But I enjoy working on this project.”

“Even cacti have flowers,” read part of the design on another pole. Which reminded Weller of another occupational hazard that she took on with this project, besides remembering to duck when lumber is on the move in her classroom space. “I got a big splinter this morning,” she said. “Luckily it came right out.”

The art is nearly finished. Now Weller hopes to make it public by offering the poles for adoption. Her classes have also produced some adult coloring books (“That’s a thing now,” she said.) themed around encouraging words. Those will be donated to area nonprofits like homeless shelters and hospitals.

If your business might be interested in planting a hope or a prayer on its campus, you can find Weller and her peaceful painters in their 4th floor production studio at East. But don’t hesitate! The school year is almost finished, too.

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