Tuesday, April 4, 2017
The Banner of Peace and the Universal Protection of Cultural Values
Up until my recent travels to NYC, I had never heard of Russian artist Nicholas Roerich or the Roerich Peace Pact. But my visit with my husband to the Nicholas Roerich Museum, on the upper west side of Manhattan, changed that. (All paintings in this post are paintings by Roerich).
You may wonder why I'm writing about a visit to an art museum on an advocacy blog. I hope I can make the association clear in this post.
Roerich was much more than an artist; he was a painter, a costumer and set designer, a writer/poet, an archaeologist, and a philosopher, and an advocate for peace and the preservation of cultural institutions, and art and architecture during wartime, regardless of geographical borders and boundaries.
Cultural preservation was very important to Nicholas Roerich throughout his career. Roerich believed that "the best products of humanity's creative genius were almost always neglected, or even destroyed, by humanity itself". (All quotes in this paragraph are from the Nicholas Roerich Museum website.) He composed a treaty known as The Roerich Pact, which "declared the necessity for protection of the cultural product and activity of the world—both during war and peace—and prescribed the method by which all sites of cultural value would be declared neutral and protected, just as the Red Cross does with hospitals." He designed The Banner of Peace (below) based on ancient symbols. "This Banner, flown at all sites of cultural activity and historical value, would declare them neutral, independent of combatant forces."
Quoting again from the Nicholas Roerich Museum website, "In so many countries we see a deterioration of cultural values and a disregard for the right of all cultural treasures to have their own continued existence, forever protected and unimpeded. We see destruction of life, property, and the inheritance of the creative genius of the nations. One can only hope that a greater awareness of the importance of humanity’s cultural heritage will increase, rather than deteriorate. There is no greater value to a nation than its culture."
That statement was not written recently, but it seems significantly relevant today. When the protection of our cultural institutions is no longer seen as a priority, it becomes our responsibility to advocate strongly for the arts and make sure that the arts continue to be recognized and valued. I believe, as our art programs are often ranked low in priority, we need to become more visible than ever before.
I suggest you search through previous blog posts and keep reading future blog posts here on The Artful Advocate for ways to make your art program visible and ways to stress the importance of visual arts education. And to learn more information on Nicholas Roerich, the Nicholas Roerich Museum, and the Roerich Peace Pact, check the museum's website HERE for more detailed information.
And while you are visiting the website to learn more about the Peace Pact, don't forget to explore Roerich's beautiful artwork. You will find many possibilities for lesson inspiration based on his artwork and his philosophy. And if you find yourself in NYC with a few hours to spare, hop a subway to the upper west side and visit this hidden gem!