Kathy King Johnson Executive Director Cheboygan Area Opera House
Sometimes Tony and I go out on random photo shoots. We chase the light. We hunt color. We scan for movement. We stalk birds and animals. And sometimes I see things Tony misses, because I am not burdened with a camera or getting the shot. I like living in the moment without looking through the lens, enjoying the sunrise, smelling the roses, and connecting with the animals. Pulled by the brilliant orange fall colors, we stopped at Veteran’s Memorial Park. Tony was busy shooting the trees, the sun so bright it poured through the leaves like liquid gold, making them look back lit. I looked at the ground and nearly fell over. A happy blue bunny was smiling up at me from the sidewalk.
In the middle of beautiful Memorial Park, designed in 1919, is a sidewalk circle. All the walks converge there, where once a beautiful fountain made of rocks from Mackinaw Island stood in the center of the circle. There are 18 pieces of sidewalk on the circle. I looked at the next panel. A smiling whale. I walked around the circle, noting that something different was drawn on each panel. The shapes were beguiling, familiar and utterly adorable. The blue bunny was drawn in chalk. There was a kitten with mittens, a shark, a whale. It was like a zodiac, each symbol laid out on the circle. I couldn’t quite decode the sequence. Then I realized that someone was telling a story.
It was the alphabet that finally gave it away. Each letter was carefully drawn. A few squares away I spotted the numbers, one through ten.
“Someone is teaching a child!” I thought to myself. I called Tony over to take pictures of each drawing. Someone was teaching a child her numbers, her letters, teaching her about animals, about rhymes, all using pictographs to teach a child about the world, using art to inspire a child to think and to learn. It was perhaps the most wonderful thing I have seen in Cheboygan.
Rainclouds formed overhead and we lost the light. Tony rushed home to develop his pictures. He was just settling in at his computer when he looked up and said, “I forgot to get a picture of the whole circle.”
“Look, Mary Poppins,” I said, “if you don’t go back to get that picture before the rain starts, those pictures will be gone, washed away, like in the movie.”
Tony loaded his cameras back up and headed back to Memorial Park. He went toward the center circle and saw a woman with a child in a stroller. He thought about just walking away so as not to disturb them, but he didn’t.
He approached the woman and introduced himself. He explained what he was doing, looking at the chalk drawings. They chatted for awhile and then he asked her, “Do you know who drew these pictures?
And she said, “I draw these with my granddaughter. I’m Susan Melton.”
Cutline: Radio DJ Susan Melton, disc jockey from 102.9 Big Country is the artist for the Sidewalk Art Project in Cheboygan and has chalked up over 3500 consecutive days of colorful, inspirational quotes.