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The solace of sister cities 

Don't you sometimes feel that the world situation is just such a mess? That nothng seems to go right and that the United States stands isolated? It can be a scary feeling sometimes, and it's a common perception nowadays, especially if you watch enough television, what with terrorist attacks, the war in Iraq, SARS and other threats. Sometimes it seems that the world is just downright hostile, and that Americans are not safe anywhere. What's worse, it feels like no one can do anything about it.

But not to fear, not all is gloom and doom. There are people in this country and in the world who want to cooperate and create peace among nations. Right here in Colorado Springs an organization exists that is dedicated to bringing local citizens together with people abroad at the grass-roots level. And it's working -- people from other countries are actually seeing the best of America, and Americans are seeing the best of other countries. The Sister Cities Program is doing just that, even though sometimes it seems that it's a well-kept secret, because, like a lot of good things, it never makes the news.

The Sister Cities International Program is a worldwide organization that exists to coordinate Sister City relationships between cities in the United States and other lands. Under the auspices of this program and with the cooperation of city governments here and in the other cities, Colorado Springs has six Sister Cities: Smolensk, Russia; Bishkek, Krygyzstan; Fujiyoshida, Japan; Bankstown, Australia; Kaohsiung, China; and Nuevo Casas Grandes, Mexico.

All of the Sister Cities relationships are thriving. Official delegations from our Sister Cities visit us on a regular basis and Colorado Springs returns the favor. Last November, for example, former Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace led a delegation of City Council members and other community leaders on a trip to Fujiyoshida.

The purpose of these exchanges is to foster cultural understanding between citizens at the local government and grass-roots level, and to promote business and economic development. With this in mind, a new cultural exchange project is currently underway between Colorado Springs and our Sister City in Mexico, Nuevo Casas Grandes, Chihuahua. This exchange is the second part of The Sister Cities Mural Art Project, which was successfully completed in March of this year by well-known Manitou Springs artist Steve Wood and a delegation of local artists who traveled to Nuevo Casas Grandes (NCG) to paint a large public mural there.

A Sister Cities public art project is in the works for downtown Colorado Springs the first week of July. A site for the mural is currently under negotiation. This project will be an artistic exchange with NCG, which is known for its beautiful pottery inspired by the ceramics found at the nearby ruins of the ancient Pueblo Indian city of Paquime -- also called Casas Grandes, or Big Houses. A delegation of artists and young people from NCG will join hands with Colorado Springs artists and volunteers (yes, you can join us in this project even if you're not much of an artist) to paint a mural in downtown Colorado Springs, July 1-8.

To celebrate the Sister Cities International theme of cooperation and mutual understanding, the mural will feature distinctive designs from both communities, such as Paquime Indian motifs and Colorado Springs mountain scenery. The finished work will contribute to educating local citizens about our Sister City, just as the mural painted in Nuevo Casas Grandes by Steve Wood and the Colorado Springs delegation has taught citizens there about our community.

The public is invited to an informational meeting about the Colorado Springs/ Nuevo Casas Grandes Sister Cities mural project on Tuesday, June 10 at the Business of Art Center, 513 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs. If you are interested in participating, would like to meet the artists from Mexico or can assist with a permanent location for the mural, please contact Steve Wood at 685-4422, or Jose Barrera at 328-9620.

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