Miles and miles of murals for peace is the goal of Joanne and Fouad Tawfilis. The Oceanside, California, husband-and-wife team founded the Art Miles Mural Project in 1997 as a way to promote peace and unite children of the world. Joanne, a retired United Nations executive, was inspired while working in postconflict Bosnia and Herzegovina. On a bullet-riddled bed sheet, she recalls, 350 orphans painted the first mural “after five days of discussion, crying, grieving, and building consensus.”
The project has since coordinated more than 4,000 murals created by over half a million people from more than 100 countries. Each measures 12 by 5 feet and is based on one of 12 themes: diversity, environment, sports, music, women, seniors, celebrity, fairy tales, peace, unity and healing, mentors, and indigenous peoples. The Tawfilises have traveled the world working on murals with people ranging from tribes in remote areas to victims in war-torn areas to survivors of natural and human disasters. Aided by donations to their nonprofit foundation, the couple provides many of the art materials; volunteers worldwide help coordinate and create the murals.
Joanne, whom Oprah Winfrey cited in 2008 as one of “80 leaders that can change the world,” says the project “works like an electric eraser” to re- move “years of tears.”
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