Jake and Hana Elliott co-own WHAT. Creative Group to spread art and inspiration throughout Nashville. Jake has also worked with The Nashville Walls Project, which has an initiative to paint Music City and breathe art projects into the various neighborhoods throughout the capital. The “Wish for Peace” mural outside of the Global Education building is one result of these artistic efforts. The mural represents more than just a hashtag moment; it has an incredible story of strength that inspired artist Jake Elliott.
The mural features the #wishforpeace hashtag, as well as a plethora of multi-colored origami cranes originating from a dandelion. Origami cranes represent peace, and have an illustrious story dating back to World War II. A popular art form in Japan, origami took off in the 16th century when paper use became widespread (although it is thought to date all the way back to the 6th century). The Japanese believed that cranes lived up to 1,000 years and honored the bird. The crane represented good luck and longevity. Japanese legend says if you fold 1,000 cranes (senbazuru) then the gods would grant you a wish. Paired with dandelions, a flower that will "grant wishes," the mural represents optimism and hope.
Photo: WHAT. Creative Group
After being hit with atomic bombs during World War II, Hiroshima and Nagasaki experienced a high death toll and absolute devastation. While many deaths were immediate, citizens of both cities experienced health issues in the years to come due to radiation exposure. Sadako Sadaki, a subject of the Peace Museum in Hiroshima, Japan, survived the atomic bombing as a young toddler, but was later diagnosed with Leukemia by age 12. The young Japanese girl coped with her suffering by folding paper cranes. She hoped that by folding 1,000 cranes, her wish to survive would come true. Sadako, along with other victims of war and suffering, is honored at the Hiroshima Peace Park.
After visiting the Peace Museum in Japan, Elliott got the idea to paint a mural to spread the message of global peace. Outside the museum in the Peace Park, Elliott saw tens of thousands of paper cranes, sent by children from all over the world. Elliott wanted to keep the conversation going. The commitment to peace reverberated through the park, and this was a souvenir worth bringing back to Nashville.
This experience planted a seed and Elliott began brainstorming ideas to bring back to Tennessee. While planning the mural, he said, “We also wanted to activate people who saw the mural around the idea of peace. How can we make this not only a beautiful scene, but involve people in it? How can we get them thinking about peace?” Elliott wanted to tie the global representation of peace with an icon that would strike a chord with Nashvillians. Dandelions were the perfect representation for locals. “I remembered that my sister taught me how to make a wish by blowing on dandelions when I was a kid, and we loved the idea of combining multicultural “wish” symbology on this mural,” Elliott stated. The cranes and dandelions marry the idea of how people around the world make a wish, and can hopefully translate to all visitors.
This mural, along with Sadako’s story, can teach future generations about past mistakes and inspire us to create a world with a brighter future. Also embedded in the mural is a commitment to elevate Nashville art. Elliott also wants to challenge the Nashville community to embrace art with commentary, take risks, and push past safe designs. Art has the power to provoke, which may not always be comfortable, but artists have so much to say, and we should create a space for that commentary in our city.
Heather Brown, a Nashville Guide writer
Hailing from the Old Dominion, I've easily adapted my "Virginia is for Lovers" slogan to the "Nashville is for Music Lovers" lifestyle. After moving to Music City from Oklahoma City, I've explored middle Tennessee through the lens of artists' paintbrushes and urban canvasses. I've enjoyed eating, sipping, and dancing my way through Tennessee's capital while pausing periodically to strike a pose throughout the journey.