Neighbors for a Better Smith Avenue High Bridge
I had designed the mural background to allow for community participation, & throughout the project invited people to paint with me. Reflecting now, I believe the repetitive process of painting small squares or pixels, offered participants a unique and timely opportunity.
Whether is was engaging in the act of repetition, the catalyzing energy inherent to a mural site, the resulting inspiration of the central mural imagery, or the simple collaboration among community members, I may never be able to say. But something important happened, people opened up, and I learned that every single person, (in my experience) has, at one point in time, struggled with their mental health. Dialog between strangers was powerful, honest, and healing. My witness heart overflows still.
The experience made me think that maybe losing people to suicide is so paralyzingly painful because mixed with our grief is remorse for being part of a contemporary society that doesn't talk about mental health struggles truthfully. And in our denial, our lack of community ownership, in our inability to comfortably say: I need mental health care!.. we loose people just like ourselves; humans just trying to be.
In the mural space we built something together that I wanted to replicate. I knew the bridge was being worked on in the near future so I contacted local officials, who connected me with neighbors, and we have grown into a online group over 300 strong.
In the short term we are walking and inhabiting the bridge with glee, hope and merry-making in mind. Beginning in May 2016 we are hosting the 3rd Thursday Bridge Walks from 6-8 PM. This is a time for neighbors to get some exercise and have fun together. Instruments are encouraged, chalk and bubbles are encouraged. On the sidelines we meet regularly & continue to work with civic leaders to find a solution worthy of our beautiful space and glorious neighbors.