Creative peacebuilding is the larger name for artist approaches to peacebuilding within individuals, groups, and societies. It includes various forms of art therapy, whereby individuals and groups can express themselves to nurture healing and restoration. It is also used to overcome the recurrence of violence, as a preventative measure to make the foundations of peace stronger, especially in contexts of war and conflict. Creating an environment of lasting peace is the primary goal of creative peacebuilding.
According to Johan Galtung, peacebuilding is the process of creating self-supporting structures that "remove causes of wars and offer alternatives to war in situations where wars might occur." For John Paul Lederach, peacebuilding is a comprehensive concept that encompasses, generates, and sustains the full array of processes, approaches, and stages needed to transform conflict toward more sustainable, peaceful relationships, which involves a wide range of activities. It has a diverse range of interaction and involves various stakeholders in various levels within the spectrum of governance and development.
Creative peacebuilding facilitates the establishments of sustainable peace by preventing recurrence of violence, addresses the root causes, healing and effects of conflict, and offer alternatives to violence through reconciliation, economic and social transformation with the use of photography, film, painting, and the like. Jolyon Mitchell argues that the visual arts can both encourage peacebuilding and instigating violence. This is true of various forms of visual arts, ranging from posters, cartoons, and stained glass, to websites, radio, and films by reflecting on examples from around the world.
Creative peacebuilding can be especially powerful when used with those suffering from a young demographic and those with post-traumatic stress disorder. For at-risk youth, it lays the roots for a peaceful lifestyle and to help children who have already experienced trauma in their lives become fully functional adults.
Art therapy has been used to help rehabilitate child soldiers in Uganda as well as to help children who lost their homes in the tsunami of 2004 cope with their feelings. Many youth centers catering to impoverished children use art forms to build community, discipline and trust.
Music therapy can be used in several different fashions to build peace. It can be used to help individuals express themselves or to foster communication between individuals or groups of people. It can be used to nurture healing and reconciliation. Music is something that transcends language and national or ethnic boundaries. It has unique styles depending on the community it originates in and can also be adapted to fit individual's tastes. When two groups who have been in conflict or have the potential for conflict make music together communication and healing become possible. When individuals listen to or play music, they can reduce their stress levels and express their feelings.
Visual art therapy can be used to help individuals cope with their feelings resulting from violent experiences. It is also used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. Art therapy is especially useful for people who are having trouble verbalizing their feelings and are keeping them bottled up. By sharing their experiences and processing them through a tactical and visual activity, people are able to heal. No prior experience with visual art is needed to participate in and gain benefits from art therapy—it is about the process of creation, not about the aesthetic appeal of the product. Art therapy can be used in group settings as well—creating a collaborative art project can be an experience that bridges differences between people and builds feelings of trust.
If people who have lived through traumatic or violent experiences can relive them and change the situation or their response to the situation they can come to terms with their past. Virtual technology and especially virtual reality simulations can be especially useful in cases like these and have been used to treat veterans of the Iraq war who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. If the technology needed for these simulations is too expensive to be practical, mental visualization, in which the victim uses their imagination to create situations and feel as if they are gaining control of the way events play out, can be used as an alternative.
Create Peace Project is an arts-for-peace education organization working to promote the practices of peace and spread the message of hope and goodwill to children around the world using creativity. Create Peace Project was founded in San Francisco, California in 2007 by artist and peace activist Ross Holzman in response to the overwhelming amount of violence in the world, on the news, and in our communities. Violence, coupled with the lack of creativity in peoples lives sparked the creation of projects such as Banners for Peace and The Peace Exchange. Create Peace Project has included more than 25,000 children from around the world in its arts-for-peace projects since its inception and continues to work with schools in the US and beyond promoting peace through creativity to children of all ages.
Artist Lily Yeh has helped to heal the wounds genocide left on a village of widows and orphans through her work with Barefoot Artists. The members of the community were provided with a chance to honor their lost loved ones through their construction of a beautiful and expressive monument commemorating the mass grave of the local victims of the genocide. The construction process also provided a sense of closure to their mourning. Other aspects of the peacebuilding process in the village included paintings on building walls created by the village children of things that they hoped to see in the future as well as things important to their everyday existence. On the economic side of this peacebuilding effort, the people of the village learned how to mosaic and pour concrete, two useful and marketable skills to help provide economic stability.
In the United State, creative peacebuilding is used in many inner-city areas in places such as New York, Philadelphia, and Louisville. The River City Drum Corps in Louisville, Ky provides a musical outlet for children who perhaps are not listened to in other parts of their lives. It is also a structured program where discipline and the importance of both uniqueness and teamwork are taught. The children learn drumming patterns and perform for different events and groups of people throughout the city. Both the children in the program and their audience benefit from the cultural exchange and communication that take place during drum corps performances.