Chalking up positive messages

Northside community art project involves student chalk art as one way to reduce crime and vandalism in Gregory Park.

St. Francis of the Lakes Catholic School eighth graders Elsie Johnson (left) and Kimberly Kaufenberg draw chalk figures on the sidewalk in front of the fountain Thursday, Nov. 5, in Gregory Park. St. Francis middle schoolers have been using their art hour to draw positive messages on the sidewalks in the park in an effort to curb vandalism. The students will walk to St. Joseph's Medical Center Friday to draw more sidewalk images. Steve Kohls/ Brainerd Dispatch

The Brainerd community came together this week to create art as a way to spread positive messaging and reduce crime and vandalism in Gregory Park.

St. Francis of the Lakes Catholic School middle school students used their art instruction hour this week to walk to Gregory Park and create chalk art messages and pictures hoping to uplift the community as a whole.

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“As part of our school mission, we are committed to challenging students to grow spiritually, academically and socially within a Catholic environment,” stated Principal Jennifer Nagel, in a news release. “Our students enjoy serving our community in many ways, but this year’s safety protocols made it challenging. We were delighted to be able to collaborate with our neighborhood and community to participate in this positive project.”


The idea for a chalk art project arose from a Brainerd Northside Neighborhood Association meeting where neighbors and community leaders met to discuss positive responses to the ongoing vandalism in Gregory Park. Charles Marohn. a north Brainerd neighbor and president of Strong Towns, told the group art can play a key factor in people’s perception and ownership of their park, while at the same time reducing crime and vandalism.


Crow Wing Energized, whose focus is to promote mental wellness, community connections and building hope, donated the art supplies.

St. Francis of the Lakes eighth graders Lauren Schmitt (left) and Kaileah Esser draw chalk pictures on the sidewalk Thursday, Nov. 5, in Gregory Park. The students along with other middle schoolers at the school have been drawing positive messages in the park to curb vandalism. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

“We really want to make sure we are building resiliency and hope. Bringing people together to celebrate our lives is important for our well-being” said Karen Johnson of Crow Wing Energized. “How fun it is for the kids to be able to do something nice for their neighborhood. You can’t help but put a smile on your face when you walk through Gregory Park.”

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Krista Soukup, president of the neighborhood association, stated: “We see Gregory Park as the Central Park of Brainerd and want to make it a beautiful and safe place for everyone to enjoy. There is nothing better than seeing the community come together to put some good out into our part of the world. The world can always use more smiles.”

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