Author and literal ray of sunshine, Dallas Clayton came to Chicago as part of Instagram’s #kindcomments campaign, and he encouraged us all to paint.

Best known for the Awesome Book series, Clayton has designed a world around self-love and neighborly compassion through literature, art, and his social media presence. Think of him as the Mr. Rogers of Instagram. When Clayton announced on Instagram that he was going to be making a mural in Chicago’s artsy neighborhood Wicker Park, I grabbed my camera and headed for the alley on Damen and North.

Clayton asked his followers to come to the alley around 2pm to help him paint, and about a dozen people initially showed up. Looking around, most people seemed to be in their early 20s and a little nervous to just pick up a paintbrush and start working. Clayton had chosen orange and blue pastels for the mural and had rollers ready to go; he started walking up to people and putting the roller full of paint in their hands and telling them to make big blocks of color. As people loosened up and painted, a truly collaborative effort started to unfold. Clayton made characters like caterpillars and smiling little blobs based on the blocks of color we created.

As the day went on, more and more people started coming and adding their own personal touch. Outside the alley, people drew with rainbow chalk on the sidewalk and wrote messages of love and happiness. When the school day ended, kids cautiously walked into the alley, too embarrassed to start painting on their own. Clayton made the time to talk to each child, handing them a paintbrush or roller and thanking them for coming to play with him. At one point, a Chicago police officer came by to chat but politely turned down a paintbrush. However, it was only a matter of time before he painted a big yellow heart on the mural alongside Clayton.

Chicago needs moments like this. Art is a universal language, and thanks to Dallas Clayton’s day of painting, everyone briefly forgot the horrors in the world and created a mural of bright, beautiful colors. For more information on Dallas Clayton and his national tour for #kindcomments, visit his site here.


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