Jean Boulware

News & Features

Minimizing Violence in Chicago Through Art

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

All it took was listening to a presentation her senior year of college to spark inspiration. Jean Boulware, now a psychology alumna from Northeastern Illinois University, attended a presentation by artist Indira Johnson about the “Ten Thousand Ripples” project.

“After her lecture I needed to get involved,” said Boulware. “She was so motivating, and the project was so unique.”

The “Ten Thousand Ripples” project was developed to demonstrate that peace is possible despite the violence in the city. The displays included the construction and installation of 10 Buddha sculptures in 10 different low-income, high-crime neighborhoods around Chicago. In addition to the installations, each neighborhood containing a sculpture hosted an artistic programming event connected with the sculptures.

To get involved while still incorporating her psychology background, Boulware and her husband, an independent filmmaker, made a documentary film about the installation of the Buddha head sculptures throughout Chicago. She added evaluation of the project through interviews with community members and data analysis.

“It was hard to hear about the lives different people face, but it was wonderful to hear the impact the project had on them and their personal interaction with the art,” said Boulware.

The analysis compared sculpture neighborhoods to non-sculpture neighborhoods based on total crime for May 2012, before the events and installation took place. She used duration of time as a covariate, a continuous control variable that is controlled not manipulated, since some neighborhoods had sculpture installations and events in the fall, while others did not have sculptures until spring.

Results showed a decrease in reported crimes in neighborhoods with the Buddha sculptures compared to neighborhoods without them.

“I think that alone shows how much a community driven art-based project like this can create change in communities,” said Boulware.

According to the “Ten Thousand Ripples” website, the art is meant to invoke the image of an emerging Buddha sculpture as a universal icon of peace, inviting people to think about how they can find peace in their own lives and their communities.

“The personal stories from community members all showed a deep, personal connection to the sculptures, events and the larger project,” Boulware said. “It went from a being means to take a moment and be present to being a self-reflection tool.”

Boulware submitted the film of the installations completed last fall to the American Psychology Association Conference, where it won the best documentary short film category. She recently submitted the complete film, including the spring 2013 installations, to the Sundance and Tribeca Film Festivals.

In the meantime, Boulware is working toward her Master of Arts degree in psychology at the University of Chicago and preparing for her next film.