There are times in life when inspiration is easily identified and times when it is muddled and hard to explain. For Mark Avery, the inspiration for the Kindness Siouxland Initiative is clear. “It emerged from sadness, grief and frustration with the lack of civility in our society. Where polarization overrode the community focus,” he said.
Wrestling with that grief and sadness, he engaged in prayer, reflection, and conversations, what emerged was clarity on how kindness serves as a vaccine to all the negativity. “When you do something kind for someone, it doesn’t just benefit that person,” Avery explains, “you feel great when you are kind to someone else. So, let’s encourage more kindness.”
With this thought in mind, Avery set to work in his studio. His business partner and soulmate Terry was an important contributor by supporting his devotion to finding a visual way to encourage kindness. He developed an idea and then worked with another creative talent in Siouxland to flesh out a design that was eye-catching, simple, and easily embraced by the community. Avery’s vision is to place these sculptures throughout Siouxland in high-traffic areas where we can be reminded daily how important kindness is.
“The hardest part of any initiative is fundraising. I had not really thought too much about that, when I ran into Denny Gann in the parking lot of a local business. We were talking about what we’d been up to and Denny asked if he could help raise funds to get the sculptures out,” he said.
Avery reached out to a few other people to turn this idea into a reality. Katie Colling, Lisa Claeys and David Gill all joined him. Together they bring a diverse set of talents, perspectives, and opinions to the project, which has been instrumental in moving forward.
“We currently have five sculptures up, and have 11 more scheduled this fall,” he says. “We want to spread them out in high traffic areas throughout Siouxland including Iowa, South Dakota and Nebraska. We want them at or near every campus of the 49 schools in the area, and we want to do it without the use of public funds. And there are some other locations we have in mind too.”
While the group does not yet have a digital presence, they are working with Morningside College students to create a website and Instagram platform for awareness. Additionally, they hope the 500-yard signs currently produced will quickly be sold to help fund additional sculptures. They are essentially miniature replicas of the sculpture – a thought bubble containing the word KINDNESS.
When asked what he hopes will be the outcome of all this work, Avery responded “That we are all reminded we have a place of kindness inside us. That we can be kind to family, friends, the planet and most importantly with people we disagree with. Kindness is universal and we can motivate that.”
To purchase a yard sign or donate to the production and installation of additional sculptures, reach out to Mark Avery, Katie Colling, Lisa Claeys or David Gill.
The Kindness Siouxland Project will partner with local non-profits to sell the Kindness thought bubble yard signs and split the profit. Contact Mark Avery for more detail. Markaavery@aol.com
Family Outing Idea: Go on a “Kindness” scavenger hunt throughout the city. Look for the signs and then perform that many random acts of kindness before you go home.