SPRING LAKE, MICH. - *words matter -- a concept that the Spring Lake community is working toward understanding with powerful, interactive photos on the walls of the high school.
The Chalkboard Project is an art installation and social media campaign started by Spring Lake art teacher, Jennifer Gwinnup. She and her students, Sam and Joe Negen and Julia Clover, as well as Gwinnup's IB art class have worked together to make the project a reality.
Photos of students and faculty members line the halls of Spring Lake High School, all holding chalkboards. As part of the project, participants are asked to write a word that has hurt them in the past or a misconception that people have of them -- some people are holding words like "broken," "anorexic" and "worthless."
Many of the photographs on the walls can also be found on Chalkboard Project's Instagram page.
According to the Chalkboard Project website, "Too often, people use hurtful words freely, without considering the potential impact," and the "ideas other have of us can develop into misperceptions that haunt us." Hurtful words and bullying can affect everyone, regardless of age, social status, socioeconomic position, race, gender and/or religion -- the Chalkboard Project is working to overcome negative perceptions with positive truths.
"The inspiration comes from working with high school students," Gwinnup said. "Seeing the dynamics of what it's like to be in high school -- carrying around words, misconceptions and hurtful language.
"We're attempting to bring to light the negative but transform it into something positive."
Gwinnup hopes that through the Chalkboard Project, students will walk away with positive truths about themselves. The project, which was open to all Spring Lake students to join -- picked up traction quickly -- as more photos were taken, more students asked to join in the project.
"The more photos we took, the more momentum the project had," Gwinnup said. "I asked students to be more vulnerable and they felt more comfortable doing so when so many people joined in."
After hanging up photos Monday night, Gwinnup says that on Wednesday, more than 45 students and faculty requested to join in.
"Intentions are unique for each individual: some want to spread awareness, others gain freedom in letting go of the powers words have held, and thankfully some remember the words but it never affected them," the website says.
On Tuesday, April 25, there is a school-wide event planned where the students will cover the negative words on the chalkboard with positive words instead, written on brightly colored paper.
"The papers are suppose to stand out against the negativity," Gwinnup said.
There will also be a photo booths, T-shirts and stickers for sale, a bracelet making station, food and music.
Although Gwinnup and her students are done taking photos at Spring Lake, she says the Chalkboard Project is far from over. She and her students plan on entering the project in to ArtPrize Nine. There are also plans to do a live installation at an art festival in Lincoln, Neb.
Other schools in the area have even reached out to Gwinnup, in hopes to bring the Chalkboard Project to their halls too.
Through the installation, social media campaign and school-wide event, the Chalkboard Project hopes to promote empathy, positivity and build the community up.
Other helpful links:
- If you or someone you know is feeling hopeless, helpless and thinking of suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
- If you or someone you know is abusing drugs or alcohol, contact the National Alcohol and Substance Abuse Information Center at 1-800-784-6776.
- For more information on what you can do to stop bullying, visit www.stopbullying.gov.
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