The Emmy-nominated video documentary Ties That Bind captures the conversations of seven Chicago women who joined in an effort to discuss what unifies and divides us. These women are leaders from their Jewish, Christian, Muslim, African-American, Hispanic, and Euro-American communities. Their experiences bear valuable lessons for all of us.



Ties That Bind grew out of an opportunity created by the events of 9/11. While many people were paralyzed with fear after the attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., women leaders from around the world agreed to work with artistic circles on a project to connect diverse groups. Within a year, we realized that in order to build community relationships effectively, and document them, we needed to focus on local, grassroots efforts.

7 female religious leaders join hands symbolizing the many "Ties That Bind". Photo by Shelly Levine.

Ties That Bind is an Emmy-nominated video documentary and peace project that brought together Chicago’s Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities through their women spiritual leaders. This hour-long documentary records the conversations and experience of a group of these leaders and their African-American, Latino and Anglo communities who joined to discuss to discuss what unifies and divides us. In 2004, the documentary premiered at the UNESCO and the Parliament of the World’s Religions “Pathways to Peace” conference in Barcelona, Spain and has been disributed internationally by NETA for public television.

Since the documentary's international and Chicago premieres, Artistic Circles has held over 100 town hall meetings at schools, houses of worship, human relations meetings, theaters and senior centers. Those town hall meetings served as a catalyst to expand the message of Ties That Bind to include men, women and youth from secular backgrounds as well as faith-based groups.


Chicago Public School Students discuss diversity at "Ties" town hall presentation. Photo by Nan Stein.

The town hall meetings moved the central focus of the conversation from religion to an even more basic human desire to connect—not to allow world events, the media or fear to divide us.


How does Ties That Bind help people connect? Again and again, we’ve seen individuals from ages 12-85 from widely different backgrounds open up about what they most fear and the prejudices they experience on a daily basis. This happens once they see and hear the women spiritual leaders talk on video about their own fears and stereotypes.

Since it's release in 2006 Ties That Bind has been used in many different ways: At religious institutions, colleges, and high schools. It had also been disscussed on a National Endowment for the Humanities panel and was the basis for a course at Northwestern University. Ties That Bind has been commericially released in Canada and shown on over 150 Public Television stations worldwide.

Somehow, seeing these women trust one another gives audience participants permission to trust as well.



When one women relates to a point another woman makes, she says “connection” and receives the ball.




Soon their small group turns into a web showing how interrelated and similar our experiences often are. 

The women leaders use a ball of yarn to symbolize the connections they are building. Photo by Shelly Levine