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Yoga, Tai Chi, drumming and more scheduled at village's Peace Garden

An urban oasis tucked behind a couple of historic buildings on Lewiston's Center Street will become a calming influence in this year's observance of the 200th anniversary of the bloody War of 1812.

The colorful but restful Lewiston International Peace Garden at 476 Center St. will be the setting for "four peace-related, consciousness-raising and community-connecting events" beginning today, according to Eva Nicklas, artistic director of the Lewiston Council on the Arts.

"The garden is a place to celebrate peace and serenity, not war," said Gail Reinbird, a leader of "Drumming for Peace," one of the four programs that will continue throughout the summer.

She and Nicklas credited Irene Rykaszewski, a Lewiston resident and professor at Niagara University, with originating the concept of the summer programs and urging a cadre of volunteers to carry it through. "It goes a step beyond just entertainment in the beautiful setting of this community garden," Nicklas said.

The first of the four programs, a six-week series of outdoor yoga classes, will begin today and continue on June 9, 16, 23, 30 and July 7. Laura Vendryes, a certified yoga instructor, reflexologist and registered nurse, will lead each of the Saturday morning classes from 8 to 9:15 a.m.

Class size is limited and reservations already have closed, but walk-ins will be accepted for $15 for each session if space is available.

"Peace begins with one person," Vendryes said. "We can continue the process of creating peace in many ways. Join with me in doing yoga as a community for peace. You will increase your energy and sense of well-being and infuse some restorative relaxation into the hectic week."

Another program will be Tai Chi, a branch of Chinese traditional martial arts, led by instructor Bob White. The soft exercises often are referred to as "meditation in motion" and they are said to "bring the entire body into harmony with natural cycles, rhythms and forces."

The Tai Chi program will be held from 6:30 to 7:15 p.m. on Thursdays, June 7, 14 and 21 and July 5, 12 and 19.

The husband and wife team of Dan and Gail Reinbird are inviting visitors to "bring your percussive instruments to our weekly drum circle" called "Drumming for Peace" at 6 p.m. each Friday from June 8 through July 27. They said "the objective is to share the rhythm and feel the beat -- free, relaxing, therapeutic and very cool!"

The couple has performed in percussion ensembles in various venues in Western New York and in large drum circles along Florida's West Coast.

The fourth program will be an art installation called "The Ties that Bind," in which hundreds of scarves will be tied together to signify that women in the United States and Canada are bound together in 200 years of peace and friendship. The display, part of a much larger effort called Binational Doors Open 2012, will open at 6 p.m. June 15 and continue through June 17.

M. Jacquie Lodico, a member of the board and former executive director of the Lewiston Council on the Arts, said scarves have been donated from many countries, including China and Sweden, in addition to the U.S. and Canada. "The scarves represent the friendship of women from many countries," Lodico said. "History is not just about war. Women understand the pains of war, and they know how to be friends. These scarves are similar to prayer flags."

Programs in the Peace Garden are sponsored by the Lewiston Council on the Arts, some of them with co-sponsors. The garden, ablaze with the bright colors of spring and early-summer flowering plants, is built on village-owned property that used to be a parking lot behind the historic "little yellow house," one of the early houses in Lewiston.