Oak Ridge, Tennessee Wins Sister Cities International’s Innovation Award for Arts and Culture

WASHINGTON, DC – Oak Ridge, Tennessee has won the Sister Cities International 2019 Innovation Award for Arts and Culture for a city with a population of 25,001-100,000. The awards competition, which is open to over 500 sister city programs nationwide, recognizes the accomplishments of outstanding individuals and community sister city programs that are promoting peace through mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation.

Thanks to energetic fundraising, brainstorming, engineering, and community outreach, the City of Oak Ridge and its partners successfully dedicated the International Friendship Bell Peace Pavilion in 2018. The bell is a symbol of peace between the U.S. and Japan, created as part of the City’s 50th anniversary, and serves as a memorial to the events of World War II.

After discovering the original home of the bell had deteriorated in 2014, City staff developed a new plan. The iconic bell is displayed beneath a modern concrete cantilever with sprawling carbon fiber beams, the longest of their kind in the world, and other state-of-the-art features. Curving paths, wide-open park views and a Japanese-inspired raked garden round out the design. Additional improvements, including planted gardens and lighting upgrades, are still underway.

As part of Oak Ridge’s student exchange with its sister city in Japan, middle school children from Naka-shi visited the site in 2018 while it was still under construction. The students, along with their local hosts, were able see the beginnings of the new home for the bell, which will be ringing in Oak Ridge for 1,000 years to come.

“We all stand to learn from these superstar Sister City programs as they impact their communities across a broad range of sectors that include business entrepreneurship, youth leadership, and arts and culture,” said Roger-Mark De Souza, Sister Cities International’s President & CEO. “These individuals and local organizations inspire us to be better citizens as their work exemplifies President Eisenhower’s vision of engaged international citizen diplomats. They create beneficial connections and lasting relationships which will help their communities today and for years to come.”

Sister Cities International Annual Awards recognize excellence in overall programming and highlight key innovations in arts and culture; business and trade; humanitarian assistance; youth and education; and professional and technical exchange categories. We also honor a Volunteer of the Year and our Youth Leadership who demonstrate exceptional efforts to advance peace through citizen diplomacy. This year we will honor all our award winners during SCI’s 2019 Annual Conference from July 17-19 in Houston, Texas.

The conference will bring together hundreds of the most influential citizen diplomats and global leaders in diplomacy, foreign affairs, policy, business, and innovation to discuss, share examples, and network. This year’s theme, Cities Mean Business, will focus on smart and resilient cities, leadership development, and entrepreneurship as key building blocks of President Eisenhower’s vision of creating a more peaceful world through citizen engagement and international cooperation between cities.

Founded as a Presidential Initiative by Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956, Sister Cities International serves as the national membership organization for 500 member communities with over 2,000 partnerships in more than 140 countries on six continents. The sister city network unites tens of thousands of citizen diplomats and volunteers who work tirelessly to promote the organizations’ mission of creating world peace and understanding through programs and projects focusing on arts and culture, youth and education, business and trade, and community development.

About Oak Ridge Sister Cities:

Contact: Sarah Self (sself@oakridgetn.gov)