A Brief History of Sidney Bolam's Art Drop Project
After the unexpected and shocking results of the presidential election in November 2016, there were those with hateful passions who found themselves emboldened by the new administration. Crimes directed at people of color, immigrants, non-Christians, women and members of the LGBTQ+ community were spiking. It seemed that we were bombarded with stories of assaults, vandalism and arson. I could feel a deep, cold ripple of fear in my community and around the world. Soon vandals began defacing landmarks in my own community, and I would describe my paramount emotion as one of complete helplessness to do anything about it. I began to search for a way to both comfort my heart and the hearts of those around me. Little did I know that my newest project would be inspired by a post on Facebook.
As both an artist and longtime art enthusiast, I follow many different talented makers online. The amazing potter of Sailing a Drift studio based out of Austin, Texas, was the first person I saw doing “Art Drops.” She was creating beautiful pieces of pottery and leaving them as gifts for the random stranger to find and enjoy. I loved watching as she placed these gifts in picturesque spots on her travels. Deeply inspired by her example, I decided to do my own version of an art drop, targeting specific places that needed a boost of positive energy in my community.
My first mission presented itself on November 11, 2016, when an unknown vandal painted such things as “KKK” and swastika symbols along the popular B-line trail in Bloomington, Indiana. Quickly I took time to make three initial limestone carvings with short quotes that promoted a message of love, hope for a brighter future, and optimism in the face of despair. Eventually I made a fourth one to add to the original three. Over the course of a few weeks, I quietly left them beside the trail with notes encouraging people to accept the gift and to pay forward kindness in the world.
Then on November 13, someone painted a similar message on St. David's Episcopal Church in Bean Blossom. This act of hate was committed only a few miles from my own home in Brown County. I drove to the site to see messages of “Heil Trump,” “Fag Church,” and a swastika. On November 30, the whole community planned to come to a cleaning ceremony at the church, so I worked late and made 22 Brown County sandstone ornaments. Each one was decorated with hearts. During this event I placed ornaments in the plants near the church entrance with notes encouraging people to take one.
The vague feeling of panic was eased by the ability to touch individuals through acts of kindness, and so, as the inauguration drew closer, I began to think about ways to send this energy further than my own hometowns. A protest called the Women's March on Washington was in the planning stages at this point. I decided that, although I would not be attending myself, maybe this would be a good opportunity for an art drop. Three carvings were sent with three of my friends who would be participating in the historic march in Washington D.C. Stones were taken by Ashley Holderman Pirani, Toby Blackwood and Sara Monnett to be placed near the march scheduled for January 21, 2017. As there were restrictions on what could be brought into the protest route, the three carvings were placed with care in spots near the site. It was an honor to have a tiny moment of involvement in this historic protest.
As time goes on, it is becoming apparent that this is both a therapeutic way for me to cope with the darkness in the world and to actually spread a bit of kindness to people and into places that could use a boost in positive energy. I have no plans to end this project, and will continue to use art to commit random acts of kindness. Art has a way of morphing and expanding and I am excited to see where this ongoing project takes me. I have hope that by giving a little bit of my own love and effort away, it will multiply like ripples in water to affect the world for better. My dearest wish would be for a world that is more kind, empathetic, and conscious than the one we are living in now. And even if this project only makes a few individual recipients of these gifts smile briefly, that is enough. I guess we'll all wait and see together.
Sidney Bolam, stone carver of Bohemian Hobbit Studio, March 2017