Needham, Mass. – Last September a new work of art greeted Needham High School students. Carefully placed on school grounds in an area accessible to all Needham community members, Ted Clausen’s Own Your Peace is a sculpture that sparks critical conversations about mental health.
During times of great sadness, people often feel hopeless and alone. Without the support of friends, family, and health professionals, such feelings put those experiencing depression at risk of hurting themselves. The stigma attached to mental health concerns also makes it difficult to openly talk about one’s emotional wellbeing without the fear of judgment.
Boston-based artist Ted Clausen worked with students from Needham High School to address these concerns. His idea was to bring health-focused conversations to the public in a way that not only spreads awareness of shared emotions and experiences, but also sparks self-reflection. He designed a sculpture to provide a space for those in need to find faith, hope, and connections to others in the community.
Standing 7-feet tall, Clausen’s reflective stainless-steel sculpture is formed by two pieces that curve around the viewer like a hug. Carved into the metal are quotes from Needham community members, both current and historical, about difficult times, how they overcame them, and the emotions they felt. As viewers read the inscriptions, their mirrored reflections meld with the words before them.
When four Needham High School students took their own lives just over eight years ago, it was a call to action. Ever since the Own Your Peace-Piece initiative has brought high school students together to create a more caring and supportive environment via gatherings, poster campaigns, and more. Under the guidance of Clausen, two student groups took to the community to interview children, veterans, first responders, and religious leaders, among others. From these interviews as well as historical documents, the powerful quotes for the sculpture were carefully chosen.
Own Your Peace stands as a symbol of Needham’s commitment to the wellbeing of each of its community members and a representation of the 24-hour network of support on hand for those in need. Although the work was commissioned by the Own Your Peace-Piece initiative, its outreach extends to the greater community. Newly graduated police officers will use the sculpture to reflect on the emotional toil of their work as first responders. Similarly, different high school classes have plans to integrate the artwork into their curriculum.