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THE FINE ART OF BUILDING PEACE: by William Kelly (Australia), Award-Winning Humanist Artist


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Time & Location

07 Feb 2021, 08:00

About the Event

Home for Humanity’s Living Curriculum: Focusing on the Humanity Charter theme: CULTURE - Nurturing a Culture of Peace & Integrity

William Kelly, renowned Humanist Artist, has promoted peace and human rights through art throughout his life. He is Laureate of the Australian Violence Prevention Award and Courage of Conscience Award from Boston, USA. Chief Protagonist of the documentary ‘Can Art Stop a Bullet? William Kelly’s Big Picture’, featuring Martin Sheen, Dr. Rama Mani and others.  William Kelly speaks to us directly from his home art studio in Yorta Yorta Country in rural Australia. Surrounded by his award-winning graphic art works, he evokes the profound importance of art that has the courage to speak out and be “a spotlight to light the way ahead, to show the journey”. He shares his own childhood in upstate New York, growing up in poverty and violence, and only discovering art at age 17. He describes how his commitment to socially engaged art arose during the race riots during the civil rights movement and the anti-Vietnam war movement.

“Art is about construction. Art is about shaping and building. Art is a constructive activity. War is only about destruction. There is nothing positive about it. It only takes minutes to destroy a city... with bombs, drones. And then it takes years to rebuild it. Why destroy it in the first place?”

He talks to us about the possibilities offered by this period of COVID to create as citizens a more connected and humane society.  As an artist who has engaged in collaborative and community works throughout his life, and championed Aboriginal artists, he emphasises the importance of collective and collaborative art. He strongly believes in awakening the artist in each of us, and sees a world where instead of few artists being treated as heroes because of the commercial value of their individual art works, it is the ideas that we share, exchange and co-create that are given value.

This deeply reflective, poignant and unforgettable conversation with William Kelly reveals how committed and courageous humanist artists have shaped the ethics and marked the spirit of our society throughout time.

BIOGRAPHY: William Kelly is an artist, humanist, pacifist, husband and father. William Kelly is a committed humanist artist whose work strongly addresses the ideas and ideals of community and the power of art to contribute to cultural change. He has been honoured worldwide for his engagement with major issues of our time including those of human rights, social justice and environment. He received the “Coat of Arms” of the city of Guernica, Spain. He is the first visual artist to receive an Australian Violence Prevention Award (presented by the Prime Minister and Heads of Australian Government). He is the first visual artist to receive the prestigious “Courage of Conscience Award” from the Peace Abbey, Boston, USA (others include the Dalai Lama, Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammad Ali, Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela, John Lennon...).He represented Australia in the International United Nations Human Rights Print Portfolio, in collaboration with Aboriginal artist, Benjamen McKeown.  A feature length documentary film about his life, values, art and collaborators, called, ‘Can Art Stop a Bullet? William Kelly’s Big Picture’, was released in 2020 and is garnering awards worldwide. The film’s title arises from Kelly’s statement that ‘A painting can never stop a bullet, but a painting can stop a bullet from being fired.’  Born in Buffalo, New York, Kelly studied at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the University of the Arts (Philadelphia, USA) and at the National Gallery School, Melbourne, Australia. Having once called a park bench home, he is a former steel worker, truck driver, welder, Fulbright Scholar and former Dean at the Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne. He lives and maintains a studio in a small 'bush town' in Yorta Yorta Country in rural Australia.

About the Living Curriculum: The conversation with William Kelly was conducted by Sophie Sozzi and Stefanie Kriech, Members of the Home for Humanity Team 2020. The team worked on the creation of a Home for Humanity Living Curriculum – a task that was embedded in the 2020 “Reshaping International Development” Course at the University of St. Gallen, directed by the co-founders of Home for Humanity. This Living Curriculum is part of the HumanivEARTHsity Programme in Transformative Education of Home for Humanity.  For more information or to join our programs, see www.HomeforHumanity.Earth

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