May 12, 2020
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Up Beat: In somber times, a stroll through sidewalk chalk art can brighten the mood

John Holyoke | BDN
John Holyoke | BDN
Tulips bloom under a bright yellow sun in a sidewalk chalk artwork along Brewer's Riverwalk on Monday.

Up Beat is a new section of the Bangor Daily News dedicated to uplifting stories. Look for tales of people helping people and things that will make you smile.

Like most of you, I’m among those who have been largely cooped up for the last eight weeks, working from home while trying to figure out a few (safe) ways to get out, enjoy whatever warmer weather we’ve had, and interact with other human beings.

That’s why I planned to head to Brewer’s Riverwalk last week, after months of saying “One of these days, I’ve got to stop by and check it out.”

Before I got the chance, I noticed a bit of social media sniping that I thought was unwarranted. It seemed that some older adults had taken issue with the sidewalk art — all temporary, and created with chalk — that had cropped up. Worse, some of the artists — young children — had been scolded and told they ought not be defacing the walkway at all.

Everyone’s a critic, I suppose.

Armed with more than a bit of righteous indignation (toward the critics, not the artists), I put a facemask in my pocket, hopped in my truck and headed to the river to see what our young Monets had been up to.

As it turned out, the mask wasn’t necessary. The Riverwalk is wide enough for two socially distant walkers to cross paths safely, and has plenty of grass on each side to pull over and let others pass.

And the artwork? Well, after eight weeks cooped up with only limited reasons to smile, the chalked drawings were just what I needed.

John Holyoke | BDN
John Holyoke | BDN
While the mood may be somber as communities deal with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, one sidewalk artist along Brewer's Riverwalk offers some encouraging words: You are beautiful.

“You are beautiful,” the first message said.

I may have blushed. I looked around, didn’t see anyone else nearby who’d take issue with a middle-aged guy talking to himself, and replied, softly, “Thank you.”

The young artists weren’t big fans of the pandemic, as you could guess. One of the first messages I found made that clear. “Goodbye Covid-19 — not welcome — please leave,” it read.

John Holyoke | BDN
John Holyoke | BDN
"Goodbye Covid-19 -- not welcome -- Please leave" is among the sidewalk art messages to be found in Brewer.

Then I learned that one artist wasn’t a big fan of one of the requirements of life during the pandemic.

“Masks are stupid,” the chalked message said.

On Monday, after Saturday’s odd snowstorm erased all those great messages, I returned to the waterfront. An artist had been back, and created a beautiful scene with tulips sprouting and the sun shining. Hopefully, they were able to create their art without any harsh words from grumpy old critics.

It turns out the same phenomenon — the art, not the criticism — is going on in Bangor. My coworker, Julia Bayly, shared a few images of the sidewalk art she’s seen downtown, and those, too, made me smile.

Julia Bayly | BDN
Julia Bayly | BDN
Stay awesome Bangor" is among the sidewalk art messages that have sprouted up in the city's downtown area lately.

Among those messages: “Community > Covid” and “Stay Awesome Bangor.”

And this: “Have Hope.”

Juilia Bayly | BDN
Juilia Bayly | BDN
Chalk art in downtown Bangor urges people (and dogs) to "Have Hope" during the COVID-19 pandemic.

So, as this pandemic stretches on, and I enter my ninth (or is it more?) week as a work-from-homer, that’s exactly what I’ll do.

I’ll have hope.

That, and I’ll try to take a bit more time to appreciate what I do have, rather than focusing on what I don’t.

I’ve got people who love me. Food in the fridge. I’m still working and writing.

And I’ve still got people like you who are reading my words. That’s worth celebrating, I figure.

So I’ll have hope. I’ll keep smiling.

And I’ll remember what one of our Brewer artists told us all.

“You are beautiful.”

On days like these, that’s worth celebrating, too.

John Holyoke can be reached at jholyoke@bangordailynews.com

 


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