With the coronavirus pandemic making people feeling more disconnected than ever from their communities, one community art initiative in Hillsboro is trying to increase connections and raise spirits.
Since early August, Hillsboro residents have been painting rocks with uplifting messages and images and placing them in red heart-shaped frames made of string outside Insomnia Coffee Co.'s locations at West Baseline Road and in Tanasbourne.
The project, called "Community ROCKS August," was organized by Cindy Cosenzo, who runs the Hillsboro-based consulting business AgeCelebration.
"The idea was you'd leave your painted rock there and someone would walk by and have a moment of inspiration and know that someone did that for you for no good reason other than the pure joy of doing something for someone else in the community," Cosenzo said. "It's a way to feel together without being able to actually be together."
The rocks were painted with messages such as "You Are Loved" and "Peace." Others had symbols or drawings such as people holding hands. People have been posting photos of their rocks on AgeCelebration's social media pages.
Cosenzo said the participation at Insomnia Coffee made her want to continue the initiative into September, as cases of COVID-19 remain high and social distancing continues.
Now, the painted rocks have a new home outside downtown Hillsboro's Glenn & Viola Walters Cultural Arts Center.
People can continue painting rocks with inspirational art through September through the program, which has been renamed "Community Keeps Rockin'."
Cosenzo says people have yet another reason to try to give encouraging messages to each other as the state has been grappling with devastating wildfires and unprecedented harmful air quality.
"We've moved all the rocks over, and just in the last couple weeks people have kept on adding great rocks to it," Cosenzo said.
The poor air quality from the wildfire smoke has forced Cosenzo to postpone another community art program that was set to launch Sept. 10.
The program, called "LOVE on the Fence," is organizing volunteers from eight different nonprofits who will gather at Hillsboro School District fences around Hillsboro to add signs created with colorful art. The signs will be designed by local artist Elizabeth Higgins.
The first nonprofit to participate is Village Without Walls, a national nonprofit with local chapters of community members who come together to establish resources for aging comfortably, and it's sponsored by Phyllis Podolske of Weichert Realtors.
Volunteers will paint a fence at Poynter Middle School once air quality permits, Cosenzo said.
The program will continue every Thursday through October at a different Hillsboro School District location.
People can stay informed about the programs by following AgeCelebration on Facebook and Instagram.
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