Peace 4 Tarpon’s Peace Flag project displayed
TARPON SPRINGS - Local nonprofit Peace 4 Tarpon embarked on the latest step of its mission to create a trauma-informed community last week in eye-catching fashion. Pedestrians walking around the east end of Spring Bayou or motorists driving along North Spring Boulevard near Tarpon Avenue have been hard-pressed to miss the organizations’ creation since last Tuesday. All those thousands of square, cloth flags — over 3,500 to be more precise — strung together between palm trees and fluttering in the wind combine to produce the Peace 4 Tarpon Peace Flags Project. Volunteers and city employees spent all morning and afternoon in a steady, warm breeze stringing the handmade symbols of peace and compassion throughout the cluster of trees.“Isn’t it amazing?” said Peace 4 Tarpon’s founding director Robin Saenger. “It’s just a very cool project and all these designs are so good.” As Saenger and the others worked to hang the flags, passersby periodically stopped to observe and inevitably ask what was going on. Those questions, explained Kathleen Sullivan, a local art therapist who works with Peace 4 Tarpon, partially represent what the Peace Flags Project was designed to accomplish. The project’s goal is to bring attention to the larger initiative, which is making Tarpon Springs a trauma-informed community. What that entails is conditioning a citizenry that is better equipped to respond to traumatic events that affect groups or individuals, be they emotional or physical. The nearly 4,000 flags were created by a mass of contributors; schoolchildren, business groups and individual volunteers all joined in the process at various stages. While much of the work was produced locally, Peace 4 Tarpon received outside contributions as well. Judy Chugg, an art teacher at Potter Elementary School in Hillsborough County, had her class create flags for the display. Once the public art display in Craig Park is disassembled in 1-2 weeks and the class’s flags are returned, they plan to send them to a town in Haiti as part of an art exchange. Providing an additional boost to the Peace Flags Project was its timing. Days after the flags went up, thousands from all over the region and county flocked to Craig Park last weekend to take part in the 39th Annual Tarpon Springs Fine Arts Festival on the Bayou. Sullivan, while praising the city’s assistance and support, said synchronizing it with the festival came during discussions months ago. “During the art festival I think it’s going to be impactful,” she said last week. “People are going to be greeted by this message, and I think that’s really cool.” After the flags come down later this month, the drive to educate residents about dealing with their own or others’ trauma will continue and Sullivan said the organization encourages involvement and interaction. To learn more about Peace 4 Tarpon and its upcoming activities, go to www.Peace4Tarpon.org or go to the group’s Facebook page at Facebook.com/peace4tarpon.