Taylor Tinkham has been chalking on neighborhood sidewalks for the last two and a half years. She said, “The idea came out of a mindfulness meditation class I was taking as part of my masters program in Holistic Health Studies at St. Kate’s. I started chalking every day that it was nice out. I drew pictures with messages on sidewalks all over my Longfellow neighborhood.
“The first drawing I did was just around the corner from our house. The message said, ‘Bring to mind someone you love.’ A couple was walking toward me as I finished it. I was so unused to doing art in public that I ran away.
“It took me a long time to acknowledge that I was a public artist. This kind of spontaneous drawing, it’s all about experiencing something in the moment. I feel like that’s what art is.”
What’s in the name?
Tinkham described her chalking practice, which she calls CeMental Break. She said, "It's a quick way to invite people into mindful awareness, a practice of living in the present moment without criticism or evaluation.”
“At its simplest level, drawing with chalk is fun and makes you feel good. By making a CeMental Break, you get to be creative and give something positive back to your community. By taking a CeMental Break, it just means you pause to take in the art on the pavement – and give your mind a chance to rest.
“I intentionally post drawings on my Instagram site that aren’t my best work, or where I’ve misspelled words. I want people to get that this doesn’t have to be perfect. The thing that makes me happiest is hearing that people have made their own drawings. When I was tagged on Instagram by someone in New Zealand who had made a CeMental Break, I was super happy.”
Self-care is more important than ever
Despite months of acclimating to the societal upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans are struggling to cope with the disruption it has caused. According to the American Psychological Association, nearly 8 of 10 adults (78%) say COVID-19 is a significant source of stress in their daily life.
Tinkham said, “I have a longstanding meditation practice, but I wouldn’t call it a traditional practice. I think a person can have a 30-second mindfulness experience that’s very powerful. I have microwave moments sometimes, when I’m heating food up in the microwave and I’m just standing still.
“In small ways, my life has been changed by chalking. Sometimes when I don’t feel like sitting with myself during meditation, I go out and chalk instead. That can be my form of meditation for the day.”
Partnership with LSC
Tinkham’s background is in studio arts, and she is currently transitioning her career to digital illustration. She just finished collaborating with the Lake Street Council on their new grant-funded program: Be Well Lake Street (see sidebar). Tinkham’s role was to help announce the program by chalking messages in front of 10 Lake Street businesses to get the word out, one piece of pavement at a time.
Rounding out the chalk season
Tinkham and half a dozen of her fellow chalk artists will end the 2021 chalk season with the Misfit Chalk Party on Oct.10 at the Lake Harriet Band Shell from 2-4 p.m. All are welcome to attend this free event.
She explained, “The artists have agreed to only use nubs for our drawings, which means pieces of chalk that are 1-inch or shorter, or colors that we rarely use. We’ll make something beautiful together out of our misfit chalk.
“This is the era of things splitting open. It’s so important to tap into our creativity right now: to be an encouragement to someone we might never meet.”