One recent mild weekend morning, while walking an elderly beagle around the pleasant and quaint surroundings of North Mankato’s Spring Lake Park, I happened upon the kind of thing that makes you say to yourself, “Hey, maybe the world isn’t going to hell after all!”

Looking down, I saw what at first appeared to be the pastel stylings of a child chalk artist. But upon further inspection, it was clear this was something different.

While it was obviously chalk, and obviously fueled by child-like wonder, it was definitely not the work of a child.

Two clouds connected by a rainbow. Across the arch of the rainbow were the words “love is love.” Beneath the rainbow, a multi-colored checkerboard of squares. Under it all were the words “you are valid.”

I guess my point is there is no downside to spreading goodwill.

About 100 feet later, another chalk creation. Simple words: “Find the joy in journey.”

And they kept coming. All along the walking path around the lake. Uplifting messages of hope and unity and love.

Photo by Robb Murray - Chalk work by Kody Miller and Sky Kempf in Spring Lake Park, North Mankato
Photo by Robb Murray – Chalk work by Kody Miller and Sky Kempf in Spring Lake Park, North Mankato

One of them left a clue to their creator: #katolovechalk.

If you’re unfamiliar with “internetspeak,” the little tic-tac-toe symbol is known as a hashtag, and it’s a clue that whatever comes after is probably Google-able or easily searchable on social media. This particular situation seemed primed for Instagram, so I checked. And there it was: an account called KatoLoveChalk.

I reached out to KatoLoveChalk, wanting to know more about who was behind such unabashed displays of positivity and community love.

If you can read, you’re old enough to comprehend the message, and you’re certainly old enough to smile.

KatoLoveChalk is the creation of Kody Miller and Sky Kempf, a young couple who attend Minnesota State University. Miller, a lifelong Mankato-area resident, said their goal was a simple one.

“A lot of what we’re aiming to do with it is to sort of create a welcoming and fun environment for people,” he said. 

Photo by Robb Murray - Chalk work by Kody Miller and Sky Kempf in Spring Lake Park, North Mankato
Photo by Robb Murray – Chalk work by Kody Miller and Sky Kempf in Spring Lake Park, North Mankato

The thing I like most about what they’re doing here is the sheer simplicity of it. They don’t have an agenda or plan other than to make people happy. It’s not tied to politics, it’s not necessarily liberal or conservative, and anyone — regardless of education, age or sex — can understand it. If you can read, you’re old enough to comprehend the message, and you’re certainly old enough to smile.

“People are constantly going through stress and struggle,” says Kempf, who grew up in Wisconsin but currently resides in Mankato. “We try to think of sayings that could give them a sign to keep working, to work hard to get that promotion, to try their passion in life.”

Their process is delightfully laid back, as it should be.

It’s simple: We’ve been marinating in tension and division for so long that I think we’re dying for something better, something different, something without an agenda other than spreading positive energy and goodwill.

They look for places where the chalk messages will likely be seen and, hopefully, appreciated. For the Spring Lake Park work that I saw, the pair said they arrived at the park early and took turns coming up with positive messages. As the summer goes on, they said Mankato-area residents are likely to see more such displays around town. They’ve considered hitting Sibley Park and Riverfront Park, too. 

Submitted Image - Kody Miller and Sky Kempf
Submitted Image – Kody Miller and Sky Kempf

Why do I love these things so much? It’s simple: We’ve been marinating in tension and division for so long that I think we’re dying for something better, something different, something without an agenda other than spreading positive energy and goodwill.

Miller and Kempf have nothing else in mind but making people smile and bringing a moment of happiness and levity to their lives. Think how much happier we’d all be if more people took a little time out of their day to do the same.

What if someone who is feeling really crappy about themselves sees words written in chalk that they are loved and feels a little better about themselves. And then that person, while they’re in the Starbucks drive-thru, pays for the person in line behind them. And then that person, hit by the kindness bug, gives $5 to the homeless veteran standing outside of Cub Foods. 

Photo by Robb Murray - Chalk work by Kody Miller and Sky Kempf in Spring Lake Park, North Mankato
Photo by Robb Murray – Chalk work by Kody Miller and Sky Kempf in Spring Lake Park, North Mankato

I guess my point is there is no downside to spreading goodwill. And it’s so easy. Kody Miller and Skye Kempf are showing us how a little spare time and sidewalk chalk can make the world — or at least lower North Mankato — a better place.

And the fact that it’s chalk, an impermanent medium, makes it even better.

Photo by Robb Murray - Chalk work by Kody Miller and Sky Kempf in Spring Lake Park, North Mankato
Photo by Robb Murray – Chalk work by Kody Miller and Sky Kempf in Spring Lake Park, North Mankato

“We wanted to make sure we weren’t vandalizing anything. Eventually, it will go away,” Kempf said. “And once it washes away we can always come back and do different ones…  we really just like chalk. At our house, we draw chalk outside all the time. So it just seemed really awesome to share that with more people.”

Author

  • Robb Murray

    has been a journalist for 25 years. A 1995 graduate of Minnesota State University, Mankato, Robb lives in North Mankato.

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