Girls in Brandywine use sidewalk and street chalk art to deliver a message of hope and encouragement to the community in the midst of fear and despair of COVID-19
By: Chuck Gibson
LOVELAND, OH – People in Brandywine on the Little Miami in Loveland received a break from the doom and gloom of COVID-19 news when they took a walk around their neighborhood Monday and Tuesday.
Maria Belesi and Natalie Brisken wanted to be light in the darkness with thier chalk art messages (Provided)
All it took was some chalk and the creative minds of two budding young artists to change the mind of many. Maria Belesi, St. Columban7th grade, and her lifelong neighbor and friend Natalie Brisken, 8th grade homeschooled, both like art, wanted to do art (because they were bored already) and thought they should share it. The combination of people working from home, kids home from school, and a warm dry day set the stage for neighbors to be out walking on the sidewalks of the neighborhood. Those sidewalks proved to be the perfect canvas for chalk art from the girls
Familiar and simple messages like this helped deliver a message of hope for folks in Brandywine (Provided)
Brightly colored optimistic and uplifing messages for people walking around Brandywine (Provided)
“We were bored one day and decided to draw with chalk,” said Maria Belesi. “We were thinking about the coronavirus, how people were getting kind of sad. We decided to draw little messages for them on their walk so they could think about that instead of all the coronavirus stuff happening.”
It worked. Their messages touched the hearts of many in the community. Kathy Hildebrand saw the artwork while she was out working in her yard.
“It struck me as something so selfless and important,” said Hildebrand, “for these young ladies to want to bring happiness to anyone using bright colors, optimistic, uplifting, don’t worry be happy kind of slogans to make people feel good after all the negativity we’ve been bombarded with in the news.”
The messages they used were familiar to them. Natalie Brisken said some they heard before and felt they related well to what they wanted to get out.
“A lot we already had in mind,” said Brisken. “A few were really simple.”
One of the familiar messages simply said: “Live, Love, Laugh”, another, most appropriate under the circumstances stated: “Light always defeats darkness”. There were a lot more hope inspiring, and encouraging words for neighbors to find along their evening stroll through Brandywine. Not just hope and encouragement, but fun and exciting.
“It was exciting people,” Hildebrand said. “One little boy, on a bicycle, with his family, was going from artwork to artwork saying I found another clue. They were having fun finding them.”
The girls know times are tough, but so are we (Provided)
The messages were encouraging too (Provided)
From the response the kids received, it seems it was great fun for everyone. There were a lot of smiles. Some might even have been a little choked up about the messages. People told the girls “this is an amazing thing you’re doing, this really touched our hearts.” It was a pretty big deal. It was also unexpected.
“We didn’t know it was that big of a deal until people started saying how much it influenced their day; how much it changed their day,” said Belesi. “It was amazing and nice to hear. I was in awe last night. I was so excited that this happened; the messages we’re getting.”
They drew a message right in front of the house of Winnie Eckhoff. It said “You are beautiful every day.” Eckhoff said it not only touched her heart, but it was great art work too. They like art, wanted to do art, and wanted to share their art with a message.
“We wanted to show that, though we’re going through tough times, we can still be positive and happy about it,” Natalie Brisken said. “We wanted to be the light in the darkness.”
Navigating tough waters is time to Keep Swimming (Provided)
The artwork of Maria Belesi and Natalie Brisken – Don’t worry, be Happy (Provided)
While it all started with the two junior high aged friends, Maria and Natalie, their high school-aged sisters, Anna Belesi, Saint Ursula Academy Senior, Julia Brisken, sophomore and Madeline Brisken junior at MND joined in to help create a big bright-colored street-wide mural. The rains came overnight Tuesday and may have washed away some of the chalk art, but their light was still shining bright in the hearts of the Brandywine community in Loveland.
All five girls l-r Maria Belesi, Natalie Brisken, Julia Brisken, Anna Belesi, and Madeline Brisken created a colorful mural on the street (Provided)
The girls took control of what they could and changed the day for neighbors (Provided)
Jennie Belesi, mother of Maria and Anna, said the girls have been playing together since they were five years old.
“They’re always doing these kinds of things,” she said. “It’s kind of nice seeing all five doing a project together.”
A simple reminder for all of us in chalk art from Maria and Natalie (Provided)
They’ve spent countless hours doing these kinds of things over the last 12-13 years together. Next they plan to make cards to let older people in the community know they are thinking of them.
“It was so much fun making them,” said Maria Belesi. “It melted our hearts that people said such nice things about them.”
“It was an amazing experience,” Natalie Brisken concluded.