In the face of so much sadness and violence in the world, one community came together and created something beautiful.
When they didn’t get the grant they applied for, Professor Janna Robertson and Matt Carvin, the director of Dreams, an arts program for at-risk youth, put their heads together. The goal was to paint a mural on a 240 foot wall to beautify the neighborhood known as Northside where Dreams is located. They decided to ask community groups to sponsor creatures to inhabit the Forest of Dreams. Over 1000 volunteers worked on the mural, and I was honored to be one of them. We worked in the rain and the heat, with lots of ants and other crawly things, and I loved every minute of it. Not only was I doing something I loved, but the consistently positive attitudes of the people around me gave me hope. I’ve never before seen with my own eyes such a diverse group of people working together to create something so beautiful.
My assignment was to paint a heron reading a book using a rough sketch as a guide. The heron was sponsored in honor of Dr. Bertha Todd, a veteran educator and civic leader who served as an important mediator during the racial tensions of the early 1970s. The book represents Dr. Todd’s memoir, My Restless Journey, which I’m looking forward to reading. (If you’re interested in purchasing the book, contact me via my contact page.)
The heron took a few weeks to finish. Then, I added the two bunnies below to another section of the mural, as well as the white rabbit in the bottom left corner of the top photo.
Among the forest creatures, you’ll see scrolls which tell this sweet story:
There once was a deer, small and gray,
Lost and lonely, only a stray,
The deer was alone but did not know why
So he lifted his gaze to view the sky.
He yearned for the welcoming stars,
And wished on each one from afar,
Until, suddenly, one star grew,
Revealing a world he never knew.
In this new light, he saw colors bright
A forest filled with fantastic delights
And amazing creatures unlike any type
He had seen on his side of the night.
He played and talked with them,
Gave to them and got from them
Sage words, gifts, and most above
Acts of kindness and boundless love.
Voices in the wind from souls long gone
Sung to him, the words of a song:
Grow, reach your antlers to the sky
You weren’t born with wings, but you can fly.
So he leapt into the starry night
And became a constellation bright
A Prince for all to see
A guide for those who dare believe
A wall is not always a wall
Sometimes it is not one at all
When you paint the world with dreams
Barriers are not what they seem.
A dream is not just a dream
But a place to start, a place to leap.
By: Jamie La Londe-Pinkston
Here are some of the creatures who live in the Forest of Dreams:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead
For more information, visit the Forest of Dreams Mural Website