John Noltner

John Noltner — A Peace of My Mind: Exploring the Meaning of Peace One Story at a Time

ARTVSM – Diversity –  Awareness – Community – Conflict Resolution – Special Events – Violence Prevention – Cultural Experience – Multicultural 

Award-winning photographer and author John Noltner has driven 40,000 miles across the United States asking people the simple question, “What does peace mean to you?” With portraits and personal stories, ordinary people reveal extraordinary insights into how we can work toward the common good and create a future that works for all of us. Holocaust survivors, refugees, artists, students, former prisoners, immigrants, veterans, and more share their thoughts and inspiring stories in a series that celebrates our common experience and sense of community. Founded in 2009, this multimedia arts project published its first book in 2011, through a successful Kickstarter campaign. Featuring the stories of 52 diverse individuals, the book is accompanied by two traveling exhibits, speaking engagements and workshops, serving as a catalyst for public dialogue around issues related to conflict resolution, civic responsibility, and social change. Through traveling exhibit installations, keynote presentations, and workshops, A Peace of My Mind’s combination of art and storytelling transcends barriers and provides a human approach to the challenging issues of today.

“In a world that asks us to focus on the things that can separate us, A Peace of My Mind invites us to explore the common humanity that connects us.” – John Noltner, founder, A Peace of My Mind


A Peace of My Mind offers two traveling exhibits that can be used as the centerpiece for public programming in schools, civic organizations and faith communities. The content of each exhibit is drawn from the stories found in the project’s first book. Each subject is featured with a large black and white portrait, a brief biography, and a passage from their interview.

Gallery Exhibit

The original exhibit is designed as a formal gallery exhibit, consisting of 52 canvas gallery wraps, each 24” wide and 36” high. This gallery exhibit ships by commercial carrier to any destination, arrives in four custom crates and is installed by the venue according to simple enclosed instructions. The gallery exhibit typically leases for 4-week displays and requires 120 – 150 feet of available wall space.

Portable Display Banners

New in 2014, A Peace of My Mind now offers a second exhibit, produced as portable display banners. Featuring the same content as the book and the gallery exhibit, the portable display banners are free-standing, easy to set up, and can quickly transform any space for presentations and workshops. Each of the 52 banners is 34” wide and 78” high. The format is flexible and the pieces can be displayed in a space from 1,000 – 5,000 square feet, depending on layout. The display banner exhibit is typically delivered and installed by the artist and is designed for intensive 1-day retreats and workshops, to 4-week installations that provide the artwork as centerpiece for longer themes and extended programming. The portable display banners also feature QR codes on each panel that can be scanned with a smart phone, linking viewers directly to each subject’s online podcast.

Keynote presentations

A 20-40 minute multi-media keynote presentation can be tailored to the specific needs of your group. The keynote addresses draws on the wisdom of the stories in A Peace of My Mind, The 6-year journey of creating the project and the importance of creating positive change in the world. The keynote can be supplemented with audience participation and readings, live music (drawn from your community or provided), and a question and answer period at the end.


John Noltner is trained in dialogue facilitation through the Project on Civic Reflection and can lead panel discussions on a range of topics. Panel members can be drawn from your own community or brought in from outside based on your group’s needs and interests. Panel topics may include the following:

  • Interfaith dialogue
  • The history of nonviolent movements
  • Using art as a vehicle for social change
  • The economics of peace vs. war
  • Civic responsibility
  • Civil dialogue for difficult subjects
  • Engaging your community for positive change
  • The transformative power of stories
  • Restorative Justice
  • Service
  • Finding good in our adversaries
  • Finding peace in the midst of turmoil

Writing workshops

Writing workshops with accompanying dialogue can be a powerful method for groups to explore their own thoughts about peace. From one-hour “flash writing” exercises to in-depth, full-day workshops, writing can help explore and clarify ideas that have not been fully articulated in the past. Accompanied by guided dialogue, these workshops can unlock new understanding for individuals and among groups.

Artist residencies

Multi-day residencies allow communities to engage with the artist in a variety of settings, from structured classroom visits to informal gatherings and receptions. The interdisciplinary nature of the project allows for meaningful engagement with students in art, philosophy, history, civics, sociology, religious studies, and other disciplines.

Facilitated story gathering

Communities can engage deeply with A Peace of My Mind by using the project as a model for their own explorations. Several venues have gathered stories from their own circles to create parallel projects. The artists has set up portable studios to include stories from your campus. Through mentoring and training exercises, groups will become familiar with interviewing and editing techniques and be guided through the process of creating their own oral history project. The experience is a powerful lesson in listening and storytelling. Culminating in a public performance / reading, these workshops hold the potential to build understanding and compassion in your community.


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