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  • The Lion and the Lamb:Imagining and Creating Peace Through the Arts
  • Phyllis Bixler (bio)

It's unfortunate that Francelia Butler and Elizabeth Hostetler never met. Libby would have applauded Francelia's "peace games," and Francelia would have appreciated the fact that Libby's Lion and Lamb Peace Arts Center began as a children's literature collection. Further conversation would have revealed them to be kindred spirits—both being energetic visionaries able to enlist others in projects that initially might seem eccentric or too ambitious, both being able to release leadership of established projects to others as they themselves moved on to new pioneering adventures.

I learned about the Lion and Lamb Peace Arts Center because it resides on the campus of my Ohio alma mater, Bluffton College, an affiliate of the Mennonite church, which has historically held pacifism as one of its defining commitments; spending part of my 1998-99 sabbatical as a visiting scholar at Bluffton College, I heard the story of how the Peace Arts Center began and observed it in action.

In 1985 at Bluffton, where she was professor of education, Libby heard Dartmouth professor and peace activist Elise Boulding declare that "we cannot be peace makers unless we have a vision of peace." In response, Libby tried to clarify her own vision of peace and thought about what had shaped it. Then, she began to wonder how current and future generations of children will find their visions of peace and be motivated to become peacemakers. To answer that question, she began collecting children's literature and other relevant printed material; soon, she added musical and visual art.

Not limiting herself to that which could be called "antiwar," Libby sought anything that encourages the more difficult but also more rewarding task of imagining and creating peace—art that elicits an appreciation for human diversity and for the environment, for example, as well as that which suggests nonviolent ways for dealing with conflict. Not surprisingly, the collection soon moved beyond personal preoccupation to become something that obviously needed to be shared. And [End Page 175] Libby wanted it to be the impetus for multifaceted peace-making; she wanted not just a museum and lending library but also a launching pad.

In the early, shaping stage of her vision, Libby had the help of two quite different but longtime friends. The first was Herman Parent, a Bluffton graduate from Lima, Ohio. Once a foster child, Herman was now a successful businessman devoted to helping other children have better lives by finding jobs for their homeless parents, funding their camp experience, and building an ark-shaped activity center for them to use after school. In memory of his wife, Herman provided a generous start-up fund and title for Libby's vision. He chose "The Lion and the Lamb" because it combines strength with gentleness and recalls the vision of the peaceable kingdom found in Isaiah 11:6-9.

Libby's other friend and early supporter was the children's biographer and autobiographer Jean Fritz. Libby had met Jean at a conference about ten years earlier, just after returning from two years of teaching in Taiwan; having spent most of her childhood in China, Jean was an eager audience for "homesick" Libby's stories about Taiwan. Their friendship had deepened as Libby wrote a critical biography of Jean for her 1981 Ph.D. dissertation while Jean was working on her childhood memoir Homesick: My Own Story (1982). Now, in the fall of 1986, Jean made a list of children's authors and illustrators Libby might ask to serve as children's literature associates on her board of directors.

The first to be asked was Katherine Paterson, who later recalled meeting this "soft-spoken, but obviously passionate young woman with a dream—a dream of a center where through the arts and literature a vision of peace could be shared with children. I remember trying hard to listen politely, while at the back of my head the ever present skeptic was busily chalking up all the reasons why such a dream had little hope of realization. But what harm if she tried? Surely a little room where some resources could...


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