SIOUX CITY -- A local organization on Saturday installed a series of five sculptures intended to promote kindness in the tri-state area, and they have ambitions to put up a lot more of them.
The group Kindness Siouxland placed sculptures at 17th Street and Dakota Avenue in South Sioux City, at North High School, Bishop Heelan High School and Sunrise Retirement Community in Sioux City and at Dakota Valley High School in North Sioux City.
The steel sculptures are in the shape of colorful cartoon thought-bubbles, with the word "Kindness" written in bright, reflective letters.
"So, at night when your headlights hit it, it'll bounce right back and say the word 'Kindness,'" said local artist Mark Avery, who designed the statues and made them locally with help from others.
Avery said the statues will appear like a "kindness apparition coming from the roadside" when seen illuminated at night.
Flowers will be planted at the bases of the sculptures, with the intent that the thought bubbles will appear as if they're floating. This set of sculptures took two to three months to build, not counting the months of design and fundraising.
"They're very bright, and colorful, and cheerful and attractive, so that they will catch people's eyes, and just remind people to be kind to each other," said Katie Colling, executive director of Missouri River Historical Development who is also a part of Kindness Siouxland.
Avery said he was driven to make the art in response to the level of interpersonal unpleasantness seen from time to time pretty much everywhere.
"In our country, it just seems like respect and politeness and courtesy and some of those things, sometimes are not quite as prevalent as many of us would like to see," he said.
"And I thought, what would be a great antidote, or a great healing piece that you could do, that would tend to balance that out? And I couldn't think of anything more important than kindness."
In time, Avery said he'd like to install as many as 60 or 65 of the sculptures, one on campus at every school in the region, plus another 10 to 15 in high-traffic areas like the downtown.
Fundraising for future sculptures was paused by the coronavirus pandemic.
"This sad and tragic COVID-19 pandemic really, really had us completely re-look at our fundraising because there are so many other priorities, with people unemployed and food insecurity," Avery said. Still, he said he's hopeful that all the sculptures might be installed in three to four years, and the group is applying for arts grants.
By placing the sculptures at schools, the group aims to get plenty of exposure for the "kindness" message, and have it seen by the right people -- the young ones, those whose minds aren't yet jaded and cynical.
The sculptures themselves were designed with durability in mind, so that they shouldn't be damaged by the roughhousing of children.
"We're going to be affecting between 25,000 and 28,000 kids every day," he said.