Art therapists took plastic knives, play guns, miniature military men and other toys that represent violence and transformed them into symbols of peace.
The sculptures that evolved are a project of the American Art Therapy Association's "Piece to Peace Cleveland Project." The association is holding its 39th annual American Art Therapy Conference in Cleveland at the Renaissance until Monday.
The sculptures that were created were to be unveiled at a reception Friday night at the Lake Erie Artists Gallery in Tower City and then donated to four Cleveland agencies: the Domestic Violence Center of Greater Cleveland, the Latino Domestic Violence Project, the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center and Boy's Village.
The Piece to Peace Project was an outgrowth of the associations' art committee goal to bring attention to youth violence while making a connection to the city that hosts the conference.
Art therapists from across the country collected "violent toys" that represent several themes, including using violence to settle disputes and toys that promote violence as fun.
The toys were deconstructed and with the guidance of professional sculptors, the art therapists created five works of art.
One three-foot tall sculpture took the shape of a phoenix, with pink, blue, red and yellow feathers sharing its chicken wire armature with toy soldiers and pieces of plastic guns.
"It is natural for art therapists to address issues of social concern through creativity, art making and human interaction," said Robin Valicenti, an art therapist from Philadelphia who developed the Piece to Peace Project.
The American Art Therapy Association is made up of mental health professionals who use art making to help improve individuals' physical, mental and emotional well-being.