If you happen to be cruising past Houdini Plaza these days, you’ll see a dozen examples of hope in this crazy world. One of them might even look familiar.
A few months ago, Appleton’s Public Art Committee sponsored a contest asking local photographers to submit images of hope. I submitted two photos, each of young men I had grown to know and admire who had sought and represented hope. The committee chose one of the pictures to be displayed on the Houdini Tower. The other received an honorable mention, which worked out perfectly because each boy received the same prize.
(Also, while I love each picture equally, the honorable mention photo of a 10-year old boy catching a snowflake on his tongue made me a little uncomfortable because it was a full on face shot. I received signed permission from all involved parties to submit it, but, though he said he wanted me to “make him famous” I wasn’t 100% sure the young man in that photo would actually want to have his face on display for all the world to see.)
The fellow in the winning photo, however, was genuinely delighted to see his handsome self take front and center in the display. In fact, when we went to see it yesterday, he climbed right up for a photo of himself with himself.
I am not going to include the honorable mention photo, but this is my description of why it represents hope:
This picture of a boy catching a snowflake on this tongue epitomizes childhood innocence to me and that represents hope because some children have to work harder than others to close their eyes and trust a snowflake’s magic. Also, like snowflakes, each child is beautiful in his or her own way and there is hope for all of us when we take a moment to find the beauty in that.
You can’t see that picture in Houdini Plaza, but you can see it on my fireplace mantel, where I expect it to remain as long as we live in that house. I took it during a random visit to Erb Park and I remember we had the whole place to ourselves. He poked his face out between climbing ropes, which left him perfectly framed by snow. Then he closed his eyes to catch a snowflake on his tongue and, in that moment, he looked as carefree and hopeful as any other child I’d ever seen playing in that park. So, I grabbed my phone and snapped the picture.
By contrast, the other photo happened during a day of exuberance, when Joseph wanted to wear his well-earned graduation gown in every instance and with every person he’d ever met. This is the photo, which had to be cropped to a square to be submitted.
This is my description of the photo for the contest:
This picture represents hope and its power on many levels — the way the basketball hangs above the rim, the graduation gown the young man wears, the way he’s floating above the ground. None of this happened by chance — it all took hard work, support, self-confidence and hope. No one’s future is a slamdunk, but hope drives everyone to try a little harder, jump a little higher and shoot for goals they would not otherwise have considered. Lastly, this represents hope during this particularly challenging year because it’s a way to celebrate a high school graduation when more traditional ways became unavailable.This young man has been through so much in his life that his ability to maintain hope and find joy in every day is an inspiration all on its own.
I love that the Houdini Plaza Hope display has become such a dynamic representation. I encourage you to stop by and see the other really cool examples of Hope in this old world.
We lost an hour to daylight savings time this weekend, but I think we’re gaining great gulps of HOPE as we move into spring.
Thank you to the Public Art Committee for selecting our photos.