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The Story Behind the 29th Street Mural—Day and Night Where the Sidewalk Ends

Inspired by the classic children's poem "Where the Sidewalk Ends" by Shel Silverstein, local artist Charity M. Counts and her 5-yr-old son, Maxwell Hopkins, collaborated on a design to transform the north and south sides of the 29th Street and I-65 underpass into two whimsical worlds. It took Charity and Max approximately 22 hours to develop and design the mural, and it was painted over the course of 5 days with the help of 12 Lilly employees, 8 friends and volunteers from the Children's Museum, and a team member from Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Inc.

Here is the story about how the mural came to be...

Once upon a time...there was an artist named Charity. She was also a mother and wished that someday her son, Max, would want to be an artist. When her son was young, he loved to draw and soon, they began to sketch and paint together.

 

One day, a very special museum in their land asked if Charity and Max would be willing to use their talents to paint a bridge in their neighborhood. Many people walk and drive under the bridge each day, and the mural would transform it into a beautiful space. “Of course!” they exclaimed.

While reading one of their favorite books - Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein - they decided there was nothing more appropriate under an urban bridge than the book’s title poem. They imagined making one side of the bridge look like the imaginary worlds described by Silverstein.

To begin, they talked about the words in the poem. 

Why would the grass be soft and white? Were they clouds? What if you could walk on clouds? 

Is peppermint wind chilly or, well, minty? Maybe it's both!

Why would only children know the place where the sidewalk ends? They use their imagination! 

Then Max sketched a moon-bird. Max said that the moon-bird should be made of moons. He drew two crescent shapes to make the body. He put a crescent moon on its head and then gave him a crimson-red chest.

Next, he sketched the moon-bird in a tree. Max’s mother asked if he knew why the moon-bird was resting in the poem. “Maybe he only flies at night, mama, when the moon is up. So he rests in the daytime.”

 

This gave them another idea. What if we were to follow that moon-bird through the place where the sidewalk ends and could see him take flight once the moon rises? 

This would be the plan for the other side of the street. We will soar with the moon-bird and follow him through an unusual landscape. Instead of clouds, trees and sun, we will see tall moonlit grasses and swirly, golden wind. Maybe some fireflies or sprites floating around.

 

During the week, as the mural was painted, residents in the neighborhood honked and waved and gave their support. Charity discovered how nice it felt to do something good for the community. She also wanted her husband and her son to help with painting the mural. Max was able to paint the mural with a team from Eli Lilly Company during Lilly Day of Service, and they all called him “the artist.” 

Max painted leaves on trees, the sidewalk, and the tall grasses in the nighttime scene.

 

The painting was complete after 5 days, and Max was so proud. He and Charity signed the painting and look forward to seeing it every time they pass under the bridge for years to come.

 PS: Max decided that when he grows up, he's going to be an artist and maybe a teacher, so he can help others make art for bridges too. 

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About the Author
Lori Byrd-McDevitt
Lori Byrd-McDevitt
Lori is the Manager of Digital Content and Social Media. That means that she's the face behind all of the museum's social media channels! Lori loves to learn about all of the fun and surprising things that go into making The Children's Museum so extraordinary—then she helps museum staff and community members share it all right here on the blog.
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