Ten Thousand Ripples: Promoting Peace or Appropriation?

What do Rogers Park, Bridgeport, Albany Park, Uptown, Pilsen, and the Lakefront trail all have in common?  These Chicago neighborhoods and running path feature fiberglass and cement Buddha heads as part of a Chicago-wide art exhibit called Ten Thousand Ripples.

Beginning in 2012, the original artist Indira Johnson partnered with educational arts nonprofit organization Changing Worlds and installed 100 of these sculptures all around the city in an attempt to promote. But has it actually achieved this goal?

The original idea of this project was to use Buddha as a symbol of peace. Sculptures were installed in various Chicago neighborhoods to inspire the inhabitants to foster discussion about nonviolence. As the project grew, more heads were installed in popular areas, and last July, Loyola’s own Museum of Art featured the heads as an exhibit (where several of them were sold to cover the project costs).


There’s no evidence to suggest these Buddha heads actually inspired peace, but they have started a discussion. While many people thought the sculptures brightened their neighborhood, some people have accused these heads of cultural appropriation, saying that by taking Buddha’s teachings and reducing them to the singular idea of peace, the project disrespects Buddhism as a whole.

What do you think? Is using Buddha’s head in a secular art exhibit disrespectful or does it inspire peace?



Before you make your decision, you can find a Buddha on the corner of Loyola Avenue and Sheridan across from the Loyola ‘L’ stop. Send us your picture of it and tell us what you think!

Comment below or tweet us @ExpressLoyola with #ExpressFaith and be sure to follow us on all of our social media, located in the sidebar!


8 thoughts on “Ten Thousand Ripples: Promoting Peace or Appropriation?

  1. I like them and feel it does inspire a sense of peace. At the least it makes us think about it for a fleeting moment and how can a peaceful thought, no matter how short in duration, be bad.

  2. My initial thought was that it is not disrespectful to Buddhism. I just thought they looked kind of cool. Then I really looked at the statues and thought, how would I feel if these were heads of Jesus on the ground all around town? As beautiful as I may find these statues, I can understand how some people may feel offended.

  3. That’s a good point, Dave. I do think that finding peace is always a good thing, and if those sculptures help you find it, that’s great!

  4. I agree, Kim! It’s important to remember there are multiple views to every subject, and to look at things from other viewpoints is a great way to express your beliefs.

  5. I believe that the Buddha heads inspire peace because more religions are being presented and it shows people all types of religions at the same time. But I do see how some people can find this disrespectful to the culture and religion.

  6. That’s an interesting thought Hannah! Religion is a very personal, yet expressive part of our identities. Whether one practices a certain faith, or decides to not practice a religion at all, it is their choice that should be respected by everyone. Buddhism does inspire peace, and the artist, Indira Johnson creatively incorporated that into a major concern in Chicago. Promoting non-violence through these Buddha busts was a unique and creative way to promote her interpretation of peace. This may come from her Indian culture, which is where Buddhism originated.

  7. I think if I happened to be walking by one of these statues, I would stop for a moment and just be. I would see it’s beauty and feel peaceful and have some sense of serenity. I really do not think that it would have occurred to me that it is disrespectful. Only upon reading the article do I see this point of view. I guess I feel it is being given honor for people to view and wonder and make their decision on if they want to learn more about this culture.
    It’s all in your point of view. I think they are beautiful.

  8. We’re glad you would enjoy these statues, Cheryl! We think that while it’s a complicated issue, if these statues are inspiring you to feel peaceful for a moment, then the artist is succeeding in her goal, which is great!

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