A Place for Peace

    A new non-profit organization aims to turn one of Hickory’s downtown business spaces into one of its most peaceful places.
    The Minetta Lane Center for Arts and Peace is currently renovating and rehabilitating the former Hickory News building on Union Square. When complete, the facility will become a gallery space, a performance place and an area where adults and children can learn.
    As the old news building welcomes these new uses, the Minetta Lane Center hopes to help it fulfill a larger purpose — a place for peace.
    “The center serves as a gathering place for artists, teachers, students and apprentices,” said Minetta Lane Center founder Michael Barrick. “By doing so, the center serves as a catalyst for peace by providing a unique space where artisans are encouraged to promote civility and peaceful social engagement through the excellence of their work.”
    Whether it be through poetry readings, musical performances, artists’                              exhibits or other artistic expressions on display, Barrick said the goal for the Minetta Lane Center is to stimulate productive dialogue.
    “What we envision is that our center becomes a place of discussion and thought and art that turns into action, and that is  really, to a large degree, up to the individual that participates in the program or attends an event,” Barrick said.        “In some cases that might mean enjoying a great musician for a few hours and the peace that comes from enjoying that. Other times it might be a speaker to address bullying of gay children in our schools and what we can do to address that. That will require more thought and a longer response.”
    Barrick said the collaboration that spawned the center could not have come at a better time. Whether it be in schools or the corporate environment, bullying and incivility is becoming an everyday norm, even in its most subtle forms, he said.
    “I have seen first-hand bullying and incivility, and it is getting worse,” Barrick said. “The institutions we look to to traditionally solve our problems aren’t getting it done, whether it be politicians or elsewhere. We seem to be locked into extremes within the political environment..We seemed to be locked into extremes within religion in this country today. We are as polarized as we were 150 years ago in the Civil War.
    “I truly believe individual artists and business leaders expect better from our society, and they will support any endeavor that is not only identifying these issues, but offering solutions for them,” he continued.
    More than a year ago, Barrick began talking with co-counder Heather Deckelnick and their discussions revealed a common realization: that there are certain things the greater Hickory Metro is missing and needs.
    “I felt like we needed a place where people could open their minds up and hopefully open their hearts up and go out and spread the word,” Deckelnick said.        “It is through the arts and education that an individual can not only achieve, but promote peace and understanding.”
    The organization is named in honor of Barrick’s mother Minetta Lane, an elementary school teacher, who he said “recognized dignity in every person.”
    “I was raised in a household and church where being a peacemaker was instilled in me,” he said, adding his mother would expect any center named in her honor, “to be like our home was — welcoming to any person that comes through the door. I know she won’t accept anything else.”
    Barrick and Deckelnick said the Minetta Lane Center aims to collaborate with other organizations as well as the area’s strong community of artists to reach out to the public and schools, including home-schooled students. While the organization won’t cater to “traditional school” programming, it does aim to “better enrich” people’s lives.
    “We want to augment what has been cut from the schools and even publicly supported institutions, such as museums and those organizations that depend on federal or state grants,” Barrick said.
    Plans for the facility, which will aims to open May 27, even include a gift shop where area artists can sell their products.
    “I think it is the whole picture — the total offering — that makes it possible for us to partner where it is appropriate and offer distinct programming, when the opportunity exists,” he said.
    For more information on the Minetta Lane Center for Arts and Peace, visit the organization’s website, www.minettalanecenter.org, where there is information about collaborating or supporting the non-profit’s mission.
    “To focus on a purposeful intentional effort to promote peace both with individuals and among people is something that, through the ages, art does,” Barrick said.” We think it is time to recapture that in light of the many problems our culture is facing.”