Fleming Creative Group, a Vancouver-based print/digital design agency, discovers how creativity and peace-building go hand in hand. Catherine Winckler, partner and creative director, explains.
Can creative exploration contribute to peace? Can filmmaking become a mechanism to break the cycle of hate? Can a camp on Canada's West Coast effect change among youth in the turbulent Middle East? Like many who learned of Peace It Together's unique peace-building program of dialogue through art, we were intrigued by the possibilities.
Since 2004, the not-for-profit has been bringing together Palestinian, Israeli and Canadian teens to collaborate in small, mixed-cultural groups, assisted by renowned volunteer filmmakers, editors and writers. In an idyllic camp setting, away from conflict yet still very much in the face of each other's preconceptions and prejudices, the youth produce short films about personally relevant issues. The result: a body of work that finds its way into their home communities and around the world, casting light on the conflict and educating in the process.
Fleming Creative Group's involvement began when I came back from the International Women's Forum in Amman, Jordan, having had my eyes and heart opened to a new area of the world for me. Youth were the key to this region, I was told again and again. A client introduced us to Adri Hamael and Reena Lazar, the passionate Palestinian and Jewish-Canadian co-founders looking to revitalize the Creative Peace Network.
Taking them under our pro bono wing and rebranding the group as Peace It Together was an easy decision. Film. Youth. Multimedia. Stories. It was a perfect overlay with our company, whose 20-year history with Nintendo of Canada and work with film and TV properties made this a "charity of choice" arrangement that had every single one of our staff involved and committed from day one.
Our strongest connection with Peace It Together has turned out to be the shared love for storytelling. Our studio's slogan is "The story through design," and we work closely with our clients to bring narrative to their messages. At Peace It Together, it wasn't just the stories told on film -- which are deeply moving and professionally presented -- but the personal stories of the youth themselves. From one teenager finding a new best friend in someone previously seen only as "enemy" to another finally coming to terms with the anger and grief of losing a brother at a checkpoint, these were compelling messages of hope.
Our work began with the rebrand, with the name change to Peace It Together. One of the biggest challenges was creating a visual identity that didn't incorporate colors or symbols affiliated with any particular country, culture or political organization. After many rounds of feedback and refinement, we arrived at a black-and-white logo that conveyed the group's peace- and filmmaking focus, and would prove to be as culturally relevant in Gaza, Jerusalem or Hebron as in the fundraising halls of governments and corporations.
To date, we've supported the group with more than $100,000 in pro bono work, including website design, recruitment posters and other collateral. We continue to provide design services as needed in addition to advising on social-media strategy, PR and marketing. "It's hard to imagine what Peace It Together would be without Fleming," says Executive Director Reena Lazar. "Our website and branding, all donated by Fleming, continue to be [some of] our biggest assets and get us the attention we need."
This attention has translated into significant media coverage and generous grants from the Vancouver Foundation and the Righteous Persons Foundation, founded by Steven Spielberg. As well, more people are visiting the website, using the films as educational tools and hosting fundraising events of their own. All the youth films can be viewed at peaceittogether.ca or on YouTube by searching for "PeaceitTogetherfilms."