Who’s behind Tyler’s peace poles, and what do they mean?

In 1955, a small group gathered in Ishikawa, Japan, to install a peace pole with a specific message: “May peace prevail on Earth.”

Fifty-nine years later, a small group of friends gathered at the Tyler Rose Garden to install the city’s first peace pole. Since then, the group has installed six poles throughout Tyler — a local contribution to more than 100,000 installations around the world, to date.

In 2014, Tyler Art of Peace installed its first peace pole at Tyler Rose Garden. 📷 Zachary Correa

The Tyler Loop sat down with Tyler Art of Peace committee member Toni Ferrell to learn about the peace poles. Ferrell said Art of Peace Tyler is an organization that began as a group of friends.

They came together in 2011 through East Texas poet and organizer Anne McCrady. “We’re just a bunch of people committed to trying to be mindful of peace and help others be as well,” she said.

Ferrell said another Art of Peace member, Liza Ely, began the peace pole project. Ely organized the installation of the first peace pole in 2014 at the Rose Garden. One year later, Tyler Art of Peace chose St. Paul Children’s Clinic as the peace pole recipient. 

By 2016, Tyler Art of Peace made a point to expand their reach to include all of Tyler. “It became apparent to us that we didn’t want to be just in the traditional areas of growth, South Tyler. We wanted to consciously hop Gentry [Parkway] into a northern location. The Glass Center came to mind. That’s a beautiful location,” said Ferrell.

Boasting the tallest of the Tyler peace poles, the Rose Rudman walking trail peace pole is also the only all-metal pole. 📷 Zachary Correa

All of the peace poles, with the exception of the St. Paul Children’s Clinic pole, are installed in a Tyler city park. Ferrell said the poles happen, in large part, thanks to the City of Tyler and the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Tyler. “The city…they’ve been good to work with,” said Ferrell. 

St. Paul Children’s Clinic park boasts a Tyler Art of Peace peace pole, installed in 2015. In similar fashion to the peace pole movement begun in 1955 in Japan, “May peace prevail on Earth” is written in multiple languages. 📷 Zachary Correa

“[The  city] prepares the park area on the day of the installation so that it’s clean and welcoming. They have staff people who are there to help install. The City Parks Department, they provide the concrete that it sits in and the people that dig the hole, they provide the muscle. And they get it set in concrete,” she said.

The Universalist Unitarian Fellowship of Tyler has purchased each of the poles. “It’s a very generous thing,” said Ferrell. We all have come to love the Unitarian Universalist Church. They’re a wonderful partner.”

The peace pole at Woldert Park sits near the sidewalk entrance to the circle path around the pond, shaded by the green leaves of a River Birch tree. Glass Recreation Center team member Allen Piedra said he’s “all about the peace.” 📷 Zachary Correa

Ferrell said each peace pole location is determined through a process. “I’ll scout around and think about the areas…thinking about the geography and the theme. And then I present something to the whole committee and we’ll make a decision together,” she said.

Tyler Art of Peace uses the poles to send a message through art. “It’s a powerful symbol,” said Ferrell. “We hope it will be a reminder to nudge people’s hearts towards peace…Visual cues are important, and we value them. We hope we can bring something to the Tyler neighborhoods to just be a quiet presence and reminder of peace.” 

Tyler Art of Peace committee member Toni Ferrell said the Bergfeld Park peace pole, above, is her favorite. “I really love driving up and down College [Avenue] and seeing the peace pole,” said Ferrell. 📷 Zachary Correa

Ferrell has dreams for more peace poles in Tyler. In particular, she has her eyes on Fun Forest Park, a City of Tyler park, and the downtown square, which is owned by Smith County

Like its sister poles throughout the city, Golden Road Park’s colorful pole features words of peace in multiple languages. Standing in a rose bed near the concession stand, this pole is adorned with a solar-powered light to share the hope of peace. 📷 Zachary Correa

In 2020, Art of Peace Tyler opted for a peace-themed utility wrap instead of a peace pole. It sits at Highway 64 and the Loop. 

Tyler Art of Peace committee member Sue Lander poses by the peace-themed city utility box, featuring a photograph taken at Tyler’s downtown square in 2014, donated by Dr. Scott Lieberman.  

The pandemic has halted Tyler Art of Peace’s usual slate of events for 2021. In a Facebook message, the organization said, “We miss being with all of you! In the meantime, we remember that the work of community-building in our own cities and across nations and cultures really never stops.”

Tyler Art of Peace provides a peace map, featuring six peace poles and a peace mural throughout the city. 📷 courtesy Tyler Art of Peace

 “Now more than ever, it’s a time to have these quiet reminders to seek peace,” said Ferrell.

Zachary Correa is a photographer from Dallas, Texas, now living in Winona. He considers himself a humanist and naturalist, inspired by John Goodall and Dylan Thomas. Correa appreciates his loving family and his two furry companions, Walker and Molly.

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Jane Neal is the executive director of The Tyler Loop and storytelling director of Out of the Loop: True Stories about Tyler and East Texas. In addition to the Loop, she works at the Literacy Council of Tyler and attends Sam Houston State University remotely, where she studies sociology. Jane is a certified interfaith spiritual guide. She is a member of Leadership Tyler Class 33 and a former teacher of French at Robert E. Lee High School, where she ran a storytelling program called Senior Stories. Jane and her husband Don have four children.