The military can seem disconnected from the broader American public. Its members are a self-selected minority, a tiny percentage of the general population who fight wars far from view of the rest of the country. Their unique challenges can be hard for someone who’s never served to understand, or even imagine. Alfred Zollinger, director of the Parsons Design Workshop in the School of Constructed Environments, is trying to bridge the military-civilian gap with his newest project, Peace & Quiet.
Opened on Veterans Day, and running through Friday, Peace & Quiet is a temporary dialogue station where veterans and civilians can openly engage each other in conversation. Located in the heart of Times Square (in Duffy Square, Broadway between 46th & 47th), the work is intended to respectfully introduce empathy, compassion, and understanding between veterans and civilians.
“We initiated this project in part out of recognition that, although we considered ourselves informed citizens, we were completely segregated from any direct contact with the veteran community,” said Sandra Wheeler, who co-directs architecture firm Matter Practice with Zollinger. “Discussions between civilians and veterans often fall prey to judgment, stereotypes, or bi-partisan politics simply because these two groups do not know enough about one another. Through conversations focusing on the human experience, we’ve been surprised to discover that there is significantly more common ground than one would think. These are the kinds of conversations we, as a civic society, need to have.”
There are several ways to get involved. Interested readers can:
- Visit www.peaceandquiet.eventbrite.com and joining a conversation
- Calling 718.855.2255, Monday through Friday, 10:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.
- Visiting the Dialogue Station during hours of operation, November 11 through 16
Peace & Quiet is facilitated by The Times Square Alliance, with funding in part provided by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. Program sponsors and collaborators are StoryCorps’ Military Voices Initiative, a program which records, shares, and preserves the stories of post 9/11 veterans, active-duty service members, and their families; the Pat Tillman Foundation and its Tillman Military Scholars; Code of Support Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to bridging the gap between civilian and military America; @Socialgence, founded by Benjamin Duchek, a consultancy offering a full-range of philanthropic services, from research and analysis to constructing visions for giving back; and Brian Fernandes-Halloran, a socially engaged artist, curator, and organizer whose works encourage personal reflection and progressive dialogue by providing an alternative environment and medium for communication.