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.
Sometimes all it takes is a bit of creative thinking and imagination to — in the words of one parent — spread a bit of happiness around. That’s exactly what folks have been doing in and around Pittsfield with a community-based scavenger art hunt designed to give youngsters something to do after their schools were closed back in March.
The idea, according to Heather Holland who helped organize the project, was sparked after she saw posts on social media about kids in the United Kingdom and closer to home in Washington state painting rainbows and hanging them in windows as signs of hope during the pandemic.
“This was near the start of the stay at home orders,” Holland said. “It seemed like something we could do in Pittsfield because the schools had just closed and everyone was going a little crazy and we needed something fun to do.”
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Starting with the rainbow theme, Pittsfield students were invited to draw, paint, sketch or color any variation of a rainbow they chose and then place them in their own home’s windows or in a window of a local business. Students from SAD 53 member towns Detroit and Burnham joined in and the art hunt was on.
For a week, the students and parents drove or walked around town looking for the rainbows and logging their locations.
“We had such a great response from the start,’ Holland said. “The kids were so excited to go out with their parents and this was a safe way for them to get out of the house.”
The project was so popular with the kids that parents decided to keep it going and let the youngsters pick the following weeks’ themes. Themes included spring animals, hearts, flowers and suns.
It didn’t take long for the artwork to be popping up all over in windows, on utility poles, in the public information kiosks and in storefronts. Residents noticed and the smiles spread almost as fast as the art.
“You’d be walking on the sidewalk and look down and see chalk art with the week’s theme,” Holland said. “It kept the kids so engaged and they were already picking the next themes as they were hanging up the current week’s art.”
That enthusiasm came as no surprise to fellow scavenger hunt organizer Jane Woodruff who said photos of the different works of art routinely racked up more than 1,000 shares on the “Heart of Pittsfield” Facebook page.
“Pittsfield is a highly child-oriented community,” Woodruff said. “This project was an outreach to the children who are spirit-lifters and that’s what they did.”
It also gave the youngsters a bit of predictability in what had overnight become a very uncertain world as the pandemic’s impacts spread through Maine.
“For us, as adults, this time is difficult enough, but it’s even harder on children,” Holland said. “Their entire routines and all that they know has been turned upside down and the scavenger art hunt gave them some consistency from week to week with a little bit of normalcy.”
The project lasted for six weeks and Holland said it gave children and parents a real boost as they all figured out how to transition into homeschooling routines.
“We did it in a time when no one really knew what to do,” Holland said. “After a while the kids had distance learning and there was a lot more for them to do.”
Throughout the project parents took numerous photos of the artwork to share on social media and to display at a future event.
“We saved a lot of the art work and took photos of what could not be saved,” Holland said. “Our plan is once we can all gather again we can have an art show we can all walk through together.”
In this time of social distancing and staying at home, the students and their art brought the towns together and provided a much needed moral boost.
“They were afforded the opportunity to participate in an activity that not only tapped their creative spirit but lifted others,” Woodruff said. “As the mother of two of the boys said, ‘they were spreading some happy.’”.
Do you know of an uplifting story in Maine? Bangor Daily News Features writer Julia Bayly is on the lookout for Up Beat stories of people, places or things that bring smiles and laughter to your day. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.