An idea a local Husmann Elementary School student got from social media led to a sidewalk art project that's bringing people in one Crystal Lake neighborhood together during the COVID-19 pandemic – in a socially distant way, of course.
Crystal Lake resident Krissy Sherwood said her 10-year-old daughter Riley saw the project on social media, and asked her mom if they could try it out.
The project was simple – all they needed was masking tape to create a mosaic pattern on the sidewalk and chalk to color it in.
Krissy Sherwood and Riley went out, and started a sidewalk square, then her son, Sean, 12, who attends Hannah Beardsley Middle School, joined in, as well as her daughter Courtney, 8.
The next day, their neighbors, the Walters family, saw what they were doing.
“[They were] like, 'Oh my God, that's so cool,' " Sherwood said.
The two neighbors started on sidewalk squares outside their own doors, then started working on their own squares, until they met in the middle. Because they had to maintain a social distance, one family did the tape on the middle square, and the other started to color the square in. On that middle square is a heart. On one of the Walters family's squares, it has the word "hope." On the Sherwoods' square, they have "love."
"It's simple. It's easy. And then the neighbors would drive or walk by or ride their bikes by and they would see it, they'd comment and say 'Oh, the kids are doing a great job,'" Sherwood said. "I think maybe that motivated the kids, too."
Riley said she liked doing the project with her family. “We got a lot of compliments,” she added.
Sherwood said they started the project on April 1, and it took them about five days to finish the whole design.
“[The Walters family] are in their yard, we're in our yard, talking and yelling back and forth and laughing and giggling,” Sherwood said. “We were still having a good time and still able to interact and communicate without being right next to each other.”
Jen Walters, whose son, Jake, 10, attends Husmann Elementary School and daughter, Leah, 16, attends Prairie Ridge High School, teaches kindergarten art at North Elementary School.
Everyone in Walters' family has been involved in making the sidewalk chalk art.
“That's been the most wonderful part about it … I just love that we could use creativity to connect as a family outside and then connect with our neighbors," Walters said. “They're our neighbors, but they're also our friends. And so we get to hang out and do this artwork together and at the same time remain sheltered in place and [practice] social distancing.”
Walters’ children did the project between remote learning sessions.
“They’ll want to take a break, or we'll just want to get outside, and it's been therapeutic as well, to get outside the four walls,” Walters said.
Unfortunately, despite putting a waterproof spray on their art, a recent thunderstorm caused some of the families' work to fade.
“You can still see the chalk and the colors, but it's just not as bright and vibrant as when we originally did it,” Sherwood said. “I think the kids probably will go out and maybe try to recolor it, or even start on the other side of the sidewalk and maybe start designs and go that way.”
The project didn't just help the two families connect. Now, more of their neighbors are starting their own chalk art projects.
“There are other kids in the neighborhood that have started doing it on the sidewalk in front of their house,” Sherwood said. “That’s kind of cool, riding around the neighborhood and you see all the different designs out there, and all the colors on the sidewalk. It makes [it] a little bit more exciting when you can't go too far.”