Story and video by Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor
Allen Elementary’s 430 students were greeted by all sorts of positive energy last week.
And it started from the ground up.
Britt Hueter, who lives down the street from the school, wanted the kids to know that someone was thinking of them and wishing them well on what can be an anxiety-filled first day of school. So the photographer/artist took her tub of chalk and created positive sidewalk messages for them to read on their walk to the front door.
Some of the students were undoubtedly already familiar with Huiter’s sidewalk art—especially if they walk to school.
Last school year Hueter drew hopscotch squares on her sidewalk to see if the kids walking to and from Allen knew what hopscotch was, and if they’d join in.
“The biggest takeaway for me in that was not so much that they knew what hopscotch was but that they noticed it on the ground,” said Hueter. “They looked down and saw. And for whatever reason, that got my wheels turning. I just felt like I had an opportunity to contribute in some way. Without sounding so pessimistic, it feels that with older generations, hope is lost. We’re kinda stuck. But kids feel there’s hope; that we can change the world through them.”
The artwork-at-Allen tradition actually started in June on the last day of school when she left messages like this one:
Hueter’s chalk art expanded over the summer to the sidewalks near her house. And then she decided to surprise visitors to the Ann Arbor Art Fair by driving downtown at 3 a.m. before the fairs opened to create some art of her own on prominent sidewalk corners.
Sidewalk art on the first day of school was an obvious next way to spread some cheer.
Principal Charles Chalfant says the kids loved the art, as did he.
“We have such a special community and what Brit does for our neighborhood spreads the words of love, something we aspire to every day at school.
“Our students are used to seeing her work on the sidewalks on the way to Allen, but it was such a great surprise for us to start the year.”
Hueter and her husband, Marty, have two children, Jo, who is in preschool, and Sam, who is nearly 2.
She said the chalk art has brought the neighborhood closer together, and that she’s recently met neighbors she hadn’t met in the four years they’ve lived there.
“It’s been the most beautiful thing ever,” she said of the chalk art in the neighborhood. “I have such a bizarre emotional attachment to all of this. It’s been really remarkable and special to be a part of it.”