News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

January 26, 2014

SPPRAK: The art of kindness

Group ‘unleashes’ month of goodwill

TERRE HAUTE — The word kind, used as an adjective, means “having or showing a gentle nature and a desire to help others; wanting and liking to do good things and to bring happiness to others,” according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

 And community members, led by non-profit group SPPRAK (Special People Performing Random Act of Kindness), are working to make Terre Haute a community of kindness.

Throughout February, various activities aimed at promoting kindness will be “unleashed” in the city.

Activities will include an art exhibit, filming, passing out compliments to strangers and recognizing people’s good work.

Creating kindness

The “Unleashing a Community of Kindness” month-long initiative kicks off with an exhibit in partnership with Arts Illiana.

The exhibit, “What does kindness look like?” challenges artists to create artwork that represents kindness.

“We came up with this idea of asking artists to create art of what they think kindness looks like,” said Trevor Bridgewater of Arts Illiana. “My little tag line that I’m kind of proud of is ‘If you can’t say anything kind, don’t say anything at all … paint it, sculpt it, create it.’”  

The exhibition is open to any artist over 18 years old, currently a resident of the Wabash Valley and member of Arts Illiana. Work by students from area colleges is also welcome.

“I have a passion for the arts, and I think it’s a really neat thing to try and create something that has a strong meaning,” Bridgewater said.

And Bridgewater got involved in the SPPRAK initiative because he wants to help create a community of kindness.

“I have a pretty tight connection with the downtown community, and I like to see it as a happy, kind community,” he said.

On Saturday, artists were able to deliver entries for the exhibit, and one artist thought of illustrating kindness in a way not many people expect.

Susan Tingley dropped off her entries to the exhibit: a drawing using charcoal and pastel on a paper map and four necklaces with photos. The entries featured crows.

“There’s a lot to tolerate with the crows,” particularly with the mess they can make, Tingley said.

Kindness, she said, is about living and letting others live.

One of her entries was a charcoal drawing of a crow on a map, which is a symbol of the earth, she said.

“They [the crows] have as much a right to be here as we do,” Tingley said. “We learn to live together and that, to me, is an act of kindness.”

The gallery will be open to the public on Feb. 7 during the opening reception, which will also include music and food, Bridgewater said.

“It’s a good time to see friends and enjoy local artwork,” he said.

Unleashing kindness

During a SPPRAK committee meeting on Friday, seven members discussed the upcoming activities.

In addition to the exhibit, another activity planned by the committee is a filming at the Ohio Building on Feb. 8. The public is invited to answer the question, on camera, “What does kindness look like?”

An activity during the final week of the month will be a recognition of unsung heroes in the community. SPPRAK co-founder Robin Heng said they are asking community members to share the story of a person they consider an unsung hero (someone who spends hours serving, etc.) and the story will be featured on the SPPRAK website.

Also on Feb. 7, the SPPRAK committee plans to launch “Random Compliment Corners.” Volunteers will pass out “Kindness Thought Cards” to people in the city.

The cards will contain a kindness idea. For example, “Write a thank you note to someone who has made a difference in your life,” was the suggestion on one of the cards, which was designed by Bridgewater and written by  Stacey Muncie, Terre Haute Living freelance writer, also members of the committee.

Random Compliment Corners will also be the main event on Feb. 17 to Feb. 22, which is National Random Act of Kindness Week.

The locations for Compliment Corners include but are not limited to Barnes and Noble at ISU, Ruby Tuesday, Terre Haute Children’s Museum and Java Haute.

“We will also have volunteers roaming throughout the city,” said Kim Grubb, SPPRAK co-founder.

Also during that week, on Feb. 18, Terre Haute Savings Bank locations will be participating by passing out water bottles and compliment cards to customers, said Sheila Parsons, assistant manager at the Riley Branch.

This was a way for the bank to show appreciation to customers and “pass on a word of kindness to someone else,” she said.

Parsons, a member of the committee, said she’s glad to work with SPPRAK to promote kindness.

“With so much negativity in the world, it’s nice to see somebody promoting something positive,” Parsons said.

Barnes and Noble at ISU is participating, too.

Barbie Fox of Barnes and Noble also attended the committee meeting. She said they plan to put compliment cards in shopping bags after purchase, attach them to textbooks that are sold and promote the event on their Facebook page.

“Anything that gets the students involved in wanting to be nice to someone else, … gets them out in the community, meeting other people … is something that we want to contribute to,” Fox said.

Kind members

The committee members volunteered for the effort because they want to see a community of kindness.

“Terre Haute is my hometown, and I love it,” Muncie said. “I am delighted to be a part of this because I’m all about doing anything to make this a better place.”

A member of law enforcement is also on the committee.

“In my job, we deal with a lot of bad things that happen with people in Terre Haute. Anything we can do to help promote people being good to each other and making this a community of caring, I’m all for that,” said Terre Haute Police Chief John Plasse.

Heng said the kindness effort has evolved into something bigger.

“It is because people are latching on to that kindness and they want that. … It’s not about receiving anything. It’s about giving something,” Heng said.

“We are a community of kindness. I see that everyday. But I really believe that Terre Haute will someday be able to teach other communities how to promote kindness. We will be the leaders in the city of kindness,” Heng said.

Tribune-Star Reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299 or


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