Milwaukee Avenue’s Peace Pole Dedication and Celebration: The Story

By Caren Stelson

What is peace?

What does peace look like?

Where can we find it?

How can we generate more of it?

Neighbors on Milwaukee Avenue in Seward have been asking these three questions and more–and trying to come up with some “answers.” Why these questions and why now? We are living in an extraordinary time of growing division, disconnection, inequality, and violence. What can one neighborhood do to make a positive difference? Living in a historically immigrant neighborhood, Milwaukee Avenue residents wanted to make a visual statement of welcome to everyone who walked through the neighborhood, one that would inspire all of us to reach out in peace.

The result?

Milwaukee Avenue  will celebrate the completion and installation of a one-of-a-kind peace pole on the event’s rain date, Sunday, September 22 during the “Twin Cities Ten Days of No Violence” ( ). Everyone—friends and neighbors on Milwaukee Avenue and the greater Seward neighborhood—are invited to a day of peace celebration and peace pole dedication. Here’s what’s happening.

10:00 am – peace chalk art on the mall led by chalk artist Tessie Bundick.  Kids, families, everyone are welcome. Meet at the Milwaukee Avenue park benches.

4:00-5:00 pm – peace pole dedication and celebration. Come for our gathering, music, food, and friends. Guest speaker: Jaylani Hussein, Executive Director of CAIR-MN (Council on American-Islamic Relations) Meet at the Milwaukee Avenue park benches.

           (This event was originally scheduled for Saturday, September 21st.)

The Story Behind Milwaukee Avenue’s Peace Park

The Milwaukee Avenue’s peace park did not begin with a peace pole. It began with a tree—a true peace tree. If you walk by the Milwaukee Avenue’s playground, you may spot a sapling protected and happily growing taller each year. It’s a ginkgo tree grown from a seed of a ginkgo that survived the 1945 Hiroshima atomic bombing. We planted the tree near the playground so we could share the gingko’s story of resilience, hope and green peace with the community, especially the children.

Milwaukee Avenue gingko tree planting, 2017

The next idea was to install a peace pole along the Milwaukee Avenue pedestrian mall. No doubt, you’ve seen white peace poles in gardens and parks around the city with the words, “May peace prevail on earth.” Milwaukee Avenue neighbors believe in the statement, but we wanted to engage our neighbors to create a one-of-a-kind, artist-designed peace pole. We hoped that everyone who walked by the peace pole would slow down, appreciate and be inspired by the design, and think about what peace meant to them.

Left to right: Bob Roscoe, Milwaukee Ave. architectural preservationist, Tom Guelcher, peace pole woodcutter, Emily Goldberg, Milwaukee Ave. peace committee member, Denise Rouleau, peace committee member and peace pole ceramist, in Denise’s art studio.

As a neighborhood project, friends, kids, and neighbors gathered at various “pop-up peace parties” and made pencil-drawn sketches to represent what peace meant to them. Working together, our own neighborhood dedicated artist-ceramist Denise Rouleau turned the sketches into beautiful terra cotta tiles. Expert woodcutter Tom Guelcher turned a six-foot cedar pole into a carefully carved peace pole with frames for each tile. Each step of creation, from brainstorming, to sketching designs, to etching clay tiles, to bringing all the pieces together took patience, time, inclusion, care, mistakes, revisions, understanding, thoughtfulness, kindness, empathy—all the elements of peace making.

Tiles designed by Milwaukee Avenue artists, children and adults.
Peace pole in Tom Guelcher’s workshop.

As we gather together on Sunday, Sept. 22 on the Milwaukee Avenue mall, we will open our hearts to neighborliness, music, food, and fun. We also look forward to collectively coming closer to answering those three questions: What is peace? What does peace look like? Where can we find it? How can we generate more of it? Please come join us.

Milwaukee Avenue peace committee members:

Emily Goldberg

Denise Rouleau

Caren Stelson

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