Joy/Happiness: A Practice in Creative Placemaking 


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Joy/Happiness was a body of work that was focused on creative placemaking.  This art practice had a mission in activating the city of Madison, Wisconsin with acts of happiness, exploring how people see, understand, experience, and using art as a method of expression, creativity, social justice, and well-being.    

This project was both academically and community focused.  Drawing in the positive psychology techniques that heightens ones levels of happiness, each month had a different theme to focus on: Gratitude, Kindness, Mindfulness, Play, Routines, Relationships, and Perspective. Similar to other bodies of work, this project also featured interviews and art workshops, but designed to be bigger - calling citizens to take ownership of their communities, changing and enhancing public spaces, connecting strangers, and instigating a positive change in our lives.  

Each month there were three ongoing events:  a philosophy "Happy Hour," art workshop, and interviews on happiness.  Part of this project was graciously funded by a Madison Art Commission BLINK grant.  


Art Workshops

Frame of Mind: In this interactive workshop, participants, explore happiness and positive thinking. There will be three different areas to explore within the room, inviting children, teens, and adults to create art, play games, and connect with others.  The mission of this workshop is to recognize the frame of mind, or perspective, that one may have, and to practice a healthy mindset.  

ThanksMaking:  A collaboration with Polka Press, this workshop was focused on gratitude.  Together we offered printmaking demos, a gratitude writing workshop, and shared thank you cards to print and purchase.  Participants were encouraged to hand write letters to people that they knew to thank them for various reasons big or small.  Stamps were provided so that people could mail them on the spot.  

Discovering Happiness within Your Relationships: 

A collaboration with DreamBank and Kinda Creative, this workshop included both lecture and hands-on activities.  Together participants worked to define their values, who it is that they want to be, and examined how to bring that into various relationships.  We explored communication styles, boundary setting, and created an alliance with ourselves, defining what it means when we show up for ourselves.  

Happiness and Routines: Make a New Year: 

A partnership with Goodman Community Center, this art and writing workshop delved into the idea that each person is the writer of their own narrative.  Asking what the relationship is between happiness and routines, participants were encouraged to dig into their feelings, wear their hearts on their sleeves, lay their lives and stories on the table, and start to write the narrative that they want.  Together people wrote goals, described moments, worked to set or reset their paths, and connected with others.  

Happy to Be Here: An Interactive Art Workshop:

In this participatory art practice, people built drop boxes to start a city-wide postcard project.  After making and decorating boxes, people were asked to write or draw on a postcard why they are "happy to be here."  "Here" could be the city of Madison, the room, or a state of mind.  This is a practice of mindfulness and served to complement the other workshops. 

Random Acts of Kindness: 

A partnership with the Bubbler, at the Madison Central Library, this drop-in workshop featured artists who work in random acts of kindness.  These artists, from all over Wisconsin, set up a station to create art or other actions.  Featured artists included Jennifer Bastian, Anja Notanja Sieger "La Prosette," Danika Laine, Katrina Lord, and Mallory Shotwell.  

Jennifer Bastian, an emotional archivist, gifted in curating a space that is comforting, inviting people to rest, and share a cup of tea.  This installation space allows strangers to meet, connect and relax. La Prosette was an artist in residence at Redline and the first typewriter poet in residence at the Pfister.  Her typewritten poetry was offered at this event, where she wrote a new poem for each person.  She composed compliment poems for people, encouraging people to have poems written for themselves as wel las other people.  Danika Laine created and shared the project For the One Who Finds Me, a project where people make small bouquets of flowers and leave them in public spaces for strangers, leaving a simple note that shares 'For the One Who Finds Me.' Katrina Lord works under the pseudonym 'MKELoveLetter' on Instagram.  Katrina's goal is to simply spread around joy by writing letters and sharing them around Milwaukee.  Mallory offered a positive spin on the parking ticket experience.  Providing 'tickets' in envelopes, people were inspired to write random note of kindness  to strangers.

Happy Hour: 
Cosmo Clark-French People Talking and Dr

A monthly group that discussed happiness and our themes through the lens of philosophy.  This experience invited people, regardless of education or philosophy background, to engage in a monthly community discussion on various elements of happiness. A list of questions and accompanying articles were offered as a suggested framework for discussion. Example questions were open-ended in nature: including, but not limited to "Is gratitude vital for happiness" What is the relationship between the two?" "What actions lead you to happiness or contentment?" "Is 'happy' the right word to describe your feelings about it?" "Are you aware when you're happy, or do you realize it later?"  

This series was very popular, and 6-30 people coming each month. 

Secret Missions
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Over the course of the year, there were many secret missions.  Shared only on the project's facebook group, these were designed only to bring waves of kindness, gratitude, celebration of community, and happiness into the city.  

The largest of which was not a secret.  On Thursday, February 2, 2017, starting at 7:30am, we started an all day, city-wide pay it forward coffee chain. Eight people went to every drive-in coffee shop in the city of Madison, Wisconsin and paid for the coffee of the person behind them. It was experimental in nature, for one never really knows how an event like this will go.  The hope was to initiate not just a ripple effect of kindness, but a tidal wave of kindness throughout the city.  Signs were shared on each of the drive-thru windows, inviting people to share in the fun with a hashtag on social media.  It took off.  Over the course of the day, well over 1000 people were in on this day of kindness, with reports of chains starting the following days, and coffee chains starting at other restaurants and coffee shops!


It was incredibly inspiring and beautiful to see.  It was beautiful to hear that people of all ages share "that even these small acts can make us and others feel good."