Powerful messages still sticking a year later

By: Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,
The Ridgetown Independent News
Not all graffiti is bad graffiti.
In this case, there is no spray paint involved — just rolls of duct tape used to leave inspiring messages around town.
For the past several months, Mark Reinhart has been posting phrases like “This Is Our Moment” and “We Don’t Need To Do What We Have Done” on schools, houses and bridges using duct tape.
Reinhart said the idea came together back in mid-March.
“A friend of mine who works in Public Health, we put our heads together to come up with an idea to help motivate people to be physically apart, but at the same time try to help everyone be together during this,” said Reinhart.
They spawned the hashtag “#BeAPartStayTogetherCK” for starters. Ideas kept flowing, but eventually, Reinhart shifted methods and began using duct tape of various colours to deliver positive messages across public buildings.
“The intent with the messages is to inspire and show how kaleidoscopic our potential is when we come together, find common ground, and are there for each other,” said Reinhart. “Lead with compassion, invent the future, and remember that public health is a practice that we all have a role in.”
The first message, “#BeAPartStayTogetherCK”, went up on the river-facing side of the Civic Centre in Chatham in late March of 2020. Since, more than 70 colourful messages have been taped to buildings.
Reinhart has since placed messages on schools, libraries (“Books Bind Us Together”), homes, businesses, office buildings, and hospitals (“Can’t Keep Heroes Away”).
“Initially, I worked with locations that had higher traffic areas,” said Reinhart. “Then organizations started to reach out to me, and we collaborated on messages, and that practice – actively working with organizations, institutions, communities – became the foundation of the project.”
The efforts quickly spread to buildings in Wallaceburg, Bothwell, Ridgetown, Wheatley, Blenheim and more communities.
Reinhart, the 0utreach Coordinator for the Municipality’s Arts and Culture, sees the need to spread positive messages. He said the messages have been well received.
He said every time he works with a building, an organization or a private residence, he has a conversation with the folks involved and together, they come up with a phrase that makes sense for the community and the building.
“The collaborative work that has been going on behind the scenes to get this COVID-19 vaccine distributed to everyone safely is one of the most humble and dynamic collaborations I have been a part of,” said Reinhart.
But Reinhart didn’t just stop at colourful duct tape. Following vaccines that were administered at the Village on the Ridge in Ridgetown, he taped fireworks to the side of the building.
“The work being done to get us to the point where we can safely get needles in arms is incredible,” said Reinhart. “It has been happening for months and is often unseen. That said, its results are explosive — like a firework in the sky.”
Reinhart said the fireworks represent the colourful potential of our collaboration, in this case, for the response to COVID-19 and the vaccine rollout. He added that it could apply to any opportunity to collaborate and work together.
Now, nearly a full year later, Reinhart’s work – called Health and Safety Notes – can be seen in the Parkdale and Queen West communities in Toronto as part of the SummerWorks’ annual arts festival.
A map on the SummerWorks website – available at www.summerworks.ca/show/health-and-safety-notes – shows there are 15 locations in Toronto participating in the project. Reinhart has also been tracking his progress on his Instagram account @healthandsafetysocial.
“Art and public art, in particular, has a curious way of not only offering inspiration and creative interruptions, but has proven over this last year to be an essential tool to help people stay connected, see each other, and be with each other when all those things seem hard to do,” said Reinhart.
Nearly a full year later, Reinhart doesn’t plan on stopping the spread of positivity.
“Be safe, be strong, and look for the fireworks,” said Reinhart.