© Copyright James A. Johnston

About the ‘Garden of Humanity' Exhibit

Since July 1995 through March 2002, the ‘Garden of Humanity' exhibit of art, along with the accompanying quotations, has been on display publicly in fourteen different venues, in communities in Central Illinois and Missouri. It is hard to estimate how many have viewed these pieces, for its been seen in public libraries, coffee houses, art galleries, two university student centers, a medical center, a store front window, and Bahá'í Centers. The number has to exceed thousands.

    The exhibit was first known as "Visual Impressions of the Bahá'í Faith" and included about twenty pieces. In January 1998 the name was changed to "The Garden of Humanity" and featured several new pieces that concentrated on the Bahá'í theme of the Oneness of Mankind.

    Presently, exhibit locations are now being arranged by Bahá'í LSA's, Groups, and Travel Teaching Coordinators throughout the Central States. It is offered without charge to any Bahá'í Community that desires it as an assistance in its proclamation and teaching work.

    Each public showing has been unique to itself, and the personal rewards to me, as the artist, have been many. There can be no greater confirmation given to an artist than to know that the message contained in his is being communicated with the viewer. This is evident by the fact that the literature for public taking always needs to be replenished during the run of the show, and that seekers have come to the multi-media presentation (a slide show of the art with the readings accompanied by improvised background music), after first viewing the exhibit. In one particular instance, a student was noticed copying the quotations of the writings in a note book while viewing the pieces. In another instance, an African American student organization requested the exhibit for a special show during Black History Month, after it had been viewed by its members at another venue.

    It must be remembered that the pieces shown in this exhibit are only one artist's attempts at the translation of the Creative and Written Word into visual forms. The writings of the Faith, revealed by its Central Figures, are literally teaming with metaphors. The pieces of this exhibit are only one artist's visual interpretation of these words. There can be as many visual interpretations of these wonderful writings as there are artists who try to paint them.

    The time spent in first creating these pieces, and then offering them for public viewing, has been an exciting, and rewarding time for me. The main objective by undertaking this effort is to spread the teachings of the Bahá'í Faith utilizing the visual arts. Hopefully this journey will continue for many more years, as new pieces are created and new directions explored, as well as many new places located for its viewing.