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Sidewalk poetry sparks creativity

095-sidwalk-quoteThere are times I wish I could be as pretty as those I see…Then I realize, the beauty on the outside of them is on the inside of me. — “Beauty” by Jen Rockey of Appleton

Don’t forget to look down on your next stroll through the city of Appleton, or you might miss out on the public art that is right under your feet. The poem above, along with 10 others, have been permanently stamped into the concrete of certain sections of sidewalk throughout Appleton as part of a sidewalk poetry program created by Paula Vandehey, city of Appleton director of public works. “This program was an opportunity to bring concepts and opportunities that are important to our community together into one exciting project,” she says.

The program, which began with six poems in 2014, has added five more short poetic works to the city’s sidewalks in 2015 and has plans to continue adding five more from Appleton residents every year. More than 100 original poems were submitted to the Sidewalk Poetry Committee for consideration this year, with applicants ranging from third-graders to adults.

Click on image to download a pdf tour map of poetry locations.

Click on image to download a pdf tour map of poetry locations.

“Each poet wrote something that was meaningful or significant to them, but people reading it on the sidewalk might think of the poem differently,” says Chad Doran, city of Appleton communications coordinator. “That’s part of what has generated so much interest in the program. Each poem has its own theme. Some will make you stop and think, others will make you smile.”

Vandehey says reading the poems not only stimulates creative thinking among community members, but also helps promote reading in a fun and unique way. The sidewalk poems promote exercise, as well, by inspiring people to make poem tours either on foot or by bike. Various groups have organized such tours, making stops at all the poems’ locations.

The locations for the sidewalk poetry are chosen based on which areas of concrete need to be replaced and the proximity of poems that have already been stamped.

Poems for 2016 will be accepted beginning in January and are due by Feb. 1 to paula.vandehey@appleton.org.

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