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Chalk up this neighborhood to hope

Students use artistic skills to help beat back virus blues

Eighth grader Lia Huizenga has been drawing as long as she can remember, but likely didn’t expect her first large-scale art piece would be done in chalk and on her own driveway.

Teacher Kim Fox’s family chose an Easter theme

Lia’s drawing was just one of many colorful driveways in her neighborhood last week, which is home to many Kent City students as well as a couple of teachers. Residents shared their photos of the concrete art with School News Network.

The idea started when Sara Larson called her sister-in-law Amber Larson, who works as a paraprofessional in Kent City preschool, with an idea she saw on social media, announcing her neighborhood was perfect for a project.

“I told her I could quickly make up some flyers,” said Amber Larson, whose daughter and cousins in the Black Hills neighborhood distributed them. “We had a great response.” The neighborhood of 22 houses soon had 16 colorful driveway murals.

Amber Larson’s four children, all of whom attend Kent City Community Schools, as well as Sara Larson’s four oldest, who also attend the schools, stepped in to help the project grow.

“It was really fun to see what everyone came up with,” said sixth grader Lylah Larson.

Tributes to Easter, Baseball and the Gambler  

This display honored the late Kenny Rogers and expressed sadness for missing baseball season

The students chalked the walks of one house that was under construction due to a fire last year. Offers were made to older neighbors without children in their homes. One couple — Earl and Pat Babcodk — requested a musical theme.  “I really liked doing it for them,” added Lylah.

Besides the musical notes and Lia’s dragon, chalk drawings included flowers, butterflies, doodles, cheerful and encouraging notes and an Easter message. There was even a tribute to both a potentially lost baseball season and singer Kenny Rogers, who passed away just days before.

That mural contained the lyrics of a popular Rogers song and a variety of baseball icons such as home plate. “We are a big baseball family, so this was a way our family could kind of pay tribute to both,” said Amber Larson.

Another Kent City teacher, Kim Fox and her family, took part in the Chalk Walk, as did families with children under school age. Algoma Christian students living in the neighborhood also joined in.

A musical theme was requested by one neighbor

Lia saw how happy it made people, and she wanted to continue to spread cheer. So she and her siblings took their chalk to great grandma’s home in Sparta. While the pandemic threat kept grandma inside the Ida Red apartments for most of the time, she came out briefly to see the colorful mural gracing her parking lot.

“We made a rainbow and a bright sun,” said Lia. “Anything we thought might cheer people up.”

The brief Sunday snowstorm washed much of the chalk away, but “Lia’s dragon was the only one that survived,” said Amber Larson.

“I don’t know how long it stayed,” said Lia, “but it was fun doing it. I liked the idea of doing something for the neighborhood.”

This flyer was placed at 22 homes in this Kent City neighborhood
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Janice Holst
Janice Holst
Janice Holst is a reporter covering Kent City and Sparta. She has been both a teacher and a journalist. A former MLive reporter, she wrote features and covered local government and schools for Advance Newspapers for nearly two decades. She also was a recipe columnist and wrote features for Mature Life Style and occasional entertainment pieces for On The Town magazines. She lives in Sparta Township and enjoys spending some of her retirement hours writing the stories of the northern Kent County school districts. Read Janice's full bio or email Janice.

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