George Nakashima Woodworkers in New Hope, Pa. runs the Nakashima Foundation for Peace, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building Altars of Peace/Sacred Tables and sending them to all parts of the world, specifically every continent. It was a dream for Japanese American architect and wood craftsman George Nakashima to use his creations to strengthen world humanity and bring together those of different faiths.
Now, George’s daughter Mira Nakashima, who carries on her late father’s goals of the foundation with other family members, is searching for the next venue to place one of these grand pieces so that the legacy lives on.
“My father’s dream was to do something spectacular in a big way in a big space with important ecumenical sponsoring organizations to spread the word of ecumenism. We haven’t gotten to all of the continents yet but we’re hoping someday we will find a spot and find and organization and build another one for another continent,” Mira tells Woodshop News.
The mission of the foundation is to maintain the architecture and the collection of furniture George Nakashima designed and built on his New Hope property; study, uphold, and perpetuate the great spiritual traditions he embraced and integrated into his work, especially that of Sri Aurobindo, Zen Buddhism, and Christian monasticism, and to build Altars of Peace and send them to all parts of the world as ecumenical seeds of peace planted for all humankind.
While several tables following this mission have been given to various establishments and individuals, three grand pieces, referred to as Altars of Peace/Sacred Tables, have been placed in their respective host continents of North America, Europe and Asia since 1986. Their locations are the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City; Russian Academy of Arts in Moscow; and Hall of Peace at the Unity Pavilion in Auroville, South India, Asia.
“We are in search of another venue. We are looking for places that would house a 10’-1/2” by 10’-1/2” peace alter that would be consecrated and used as a gathering place for people to either meet or pray or sing or place offerings on or just meditate for peace.”
Mira recently worked with a South African organization to place the next table, but various funding and political glitches have hindered that. But she’s familiar with the political and logistical challenges in negotiating with foreign organizations. With the Moscow installation, for example, the word ‘altar’ has a strict orthodox meaning in Russia and was limited to where it could be placed, which is why went to the interdenominational Academy of Arts. The tables are also very expensive to ship properly.
Scot Wineland, of Wineland Walnut in Chico, Calif., is one the lumber companies that contributes to the foundation. He’s donated time and material to its cause since the first table was made. “I think this cause is very important to donate to because of all of the negative energy going on in the world,” says Wineland.
Mira has her sights set on South America and Australia.
“It would be wonderful if we could find a spot in either of those continents. That’s a long way to send a large piece of furniture so I thought maybe we could just team up with woodworker friends we trust in those countries and make something out of the native wood with some of the native craftsmen and make it an international kind of project,” she says.
This article originally appeared in the April 2020 issue.