Giving back: Peace Crane project inspires cancer survivors

Arts in the Community, peace cranes projectWhen the cancer center at St. Vincent Hospital hosted its annual Cancer Survivors’ Dinner in June, a sculpture created by arts management students at UW-Green Bay was a centerpiece.

Now, that same “Peace Crane” sculpture — representing hopefulness and peace in the Japanese tradition — has taken flight as possible inspiration and art therapy for cancer survivors.

Arts in the Community group works on peace crane treeThe story begins with Prof. Ellen Rosewall and her Arts in the Community course. Students are directed to pursue projects that touch upon the civic, educational, social, healing or political ways that art integrates into society and community life.

Last fall, one of the Arts in the Community groups created a project based on the legend of the peace cranes. Ancient Japanese folk wisdom holds that if you fold a thousand origami cranes, your wish will come true.

“This group of students taught the (other members of the) class to make the cranes and created a sculpture,” Rosewall says. “Long story short, the St. Vincent’s Cancer Center learned of the project and asked if we could help with their annual Cancer Survivors’ Dinner.”

In Japan, the origami tradition is strongly linked to the story of Sadako Sasaki, who contracted leukemia after the atomic bomb explosion in Hiroshima. She died at age 12, in 1955, a full decade after the blast, but not before she made folding 1,000 cranes a symbol of hope despite her cancer. Visitors to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial often leave origami cranes at a monument to Sadako at the site.

UW-Green Bay student Alannah Koehler represented her classmates at the June 7 event. Using the sculpture as a teaching aide, she and others helped guide and encourage participants to make their own cranes to add to the project.

A director of the St. Vincent center says they are considering adding the “peace crane” exercise to future, ongoing support groups and art-therapy efforts.

peace cranes donated  to St Vincent Cancer Center

In the meantime, the director says, the streamer-like skeins of cranes created at the annual dinner “look very cheerful” adorning the Cancer Center space, as does the original student sculpture, donated by the UW-Green Bay students. The displays could soon be headed across town to St. Vincent’s sister institution, St. Mary’s Hospital, to brighten moods there.

Rosewall notes the crane sculpture is the second piece of art created in the Arts in the Community class that is on exhibit. The other, “Out of War Comes Peace,” is part of the Cofrin Library’s permanent collection and is mounted in the library’s third floor lounge.

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