By Barb Arland-Fye
Artist Katie Kiley found the inspiration to return to art through a project her late husband, John, championed in his role as the Davenport Diocese’s social action director.
John Kiley actively promoted the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award, which honors individuals for their passionate commitment to peace and justice and for inspiring others to do the same. A Pacem in Terris tradition is to inscribe recipients’ names on a banner displayed at each year’s ceremony. But space ran out for inscription of the 40th name last year.
Before his unexpected death Feb. 15, 2009, John Kiley envisioned creation of a permanent display featuring award winners’ names. Pacem in Terris Planning Committee members turned to the person who knew John best, his wife, and invited her to create the permanent display.
Katie had put her art aside following her husband’s death, but accepted the invitation knowing how much it would mean to him. “I knew this was something John wanted. He wanted a dedicated room for the Pacem in Terris names to be displayed. That’s why I accepted.”
The first task was to design an expandable display; a visit to a Japanese screen exhibit at the Chicago Art Institute provided Katie with the idea.
“She shared with us a vision about how to acknowledge the history of the award and to allow for the addition of future names,” said Kent Ferris, the diocese’s social action director. The finished display, he noted, “is a work of art and work of love.”
Master craftsman Randy Nagle created three, 25-inch-by-48-inch frames made of solid cherry to display the inscribed names. “The frames are exquisite,” said Katie, who commissioned Randy to create them.
She chose panels made of 100 percent archival watercolor board on which to hand letter the recipients’ names. Calligraphy is an art form she learned from the late Father Ed Catich of St. Ambrose University, a world-renowned calligrapher. Before she inscribed the first letter of the first recipient’s name – John F. Kennedy — she had to ensure uniformity in identifying each individual, and painstakingly measure horizontal and vertical spacing. Then, with a reed and India ink she inscribed the names in Formal Roman Printscript. Asked if she prayed while inscribing the names, she quipped: “With no margin for error, I said a prayer before every letter.”
To distinguish the recipients, she color-coded the decades in which they received the award. The name of Father John Dear, S.J., who will receive the award Oct. 31, initiates the color saffron for the new decade.
Using a brush, she wrote the phrase “Pacem in Terris” in Imperial Latin manuscript at the top of each panel.
She also handcrafted archival, marbleized paper to accent the frames: blue at the top for the heavens and burnt orange at the bottom for the earth. She made her own archival glue to attach the marbleized paper. An eighth-inch-thick sheet of Plexiglas covers and protects the calligraphy and art of each panel.
The project was rewarding, challenging and labor intensive. Katie said she quit counting after reaching 70 hours. But it was a labor of love. “The Pacem in Terris project brought me back to art. I hadn’t consciously realized it until now. This project from the diocese was a genuine gift,” she said.
The diocese paid $1,500 for the artwork which both Katie and Randy devoted many hours to creating. “This doesn’t come close to covering the value of their beautiful artistry,” said diocesan Chief Financial Officer Char Maaske.
“It’s an amazing legacy. It will be a wonderful addition to the ceremony,” Ferris said. “In years past, we’ve rolled up the banner and stored it. Our intent is to have this new Pacem in Terris display in the social action office year-round so people who visit will realize the legacy of the peace award.”
Pacem in Terris ceremony slated
Father John Dear, S.J., will receive the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award Oct. 31 in Christ the King Chapel at St. Ambrose University in Davenport. The ceremony, open to the public, begins at 2 p.m.
The award is presented by the Quad City Pacem in Terris Coalition: the Diocese of Davenport, St. Ambrose University, Augustana College, Churches United of the Quad City Area, the Congregation of the Humility of Mary, The Sisters of St. Francis, Clinton, The Sisters of St. Francis, Dubuque, The Catholic Messenger, Pax Christi Quad Cities and Bridges of Faith.