Susan Guess and her daughter, Morgan Guess, co-founded the Guess Anti-Bullying Foundation 10 years ago to help people better understand each other and increase human kindness and empathy.
On Tuesday, the foundation organized a group of people to paint the message “#Be Kind Paducah” on the wall of the tunnel on the Greenway Trail under Paducah-Brookport Road in Paducah.
“We just walk on the Greenway Trail a lot,” Susan Guess said. “Obviously, we want to continue to spread the message of being kind. As you walk through the tunnel, we just felt like it needed something.
“We have a lot of great experiences on this Greenway Trail. People are kind as it is, but why not give an action statement to take it out into the world?”
Guess said she got the idea to do a mural on the Greenway Trail tunnel last fall, but the weather turned bad, so the project was moved to June.
About 20 people from different walks of life in Paducah turned out to help paint the lettering, which consisted of different shapes within the letters.
Among those scheduled to help with the mural were McCracken County Sheriff Matt Carter, Paducah Police Chief Brian Laird, NAACP Chapter President J.W. Cleary, meteorologist and musician Lew Jetton and McCracken County Superintendent Steve Carter.
“People were excited to be a part of it,” Guess said. “We just reached out to people. We wanted to make sure we had diversity and different ages, genders, race — and a lot of them are people who have sponsored us and supported our work.
“Because of COVID-19, we wanted to limit it to six people per shift. We had (people representing) education, medical — the last shift was all students. We had the faith community. It’s just been a good variety of representation of our community.”
Artist Kijsa Housman, the owner of MAKE Studios of Paducah, designed the lettering and was one of several people painting in the patchwork pieces within the letters.
“The concept when you’re doing a public mural is: You’re trying to think of something that many hands can be a part of,” she said. “What I wanted it to be is bright and colorful and almost, in a way, everybody could find where they painted, but it almost quilts together.
“It wasn’t meant to be a quilt, but you have that idea, of many hands working together and it all presents one mural.”
Housman said that everyone who painted had one color.
“Some of the colors repeated, but they were different, so they could walk in and say, ‘Oh, I painted green over there,’ or ‘I painted blue,’ ” she said. “So, they can recognize that because any time you’re able to take ownership of something, it also becomes a part of you.”
Housman said she is passionate about art in general and public art in particular.
“Art speaks to people, and it can speak in a language that nothing else can,” she said. “It’s a way to express ideas and beliefs and things that can impact people.”
Guess said that while people often supported her organization’s anti-bullying message, the timing of this effort was different.
“It seems to be a special time,” she said. “People want to be a part of something positive and to show that we really are one group.
“I think, on Election Day, when there is so much emphasis on the impact our elected officials have on our way of life, the truth is: It is individuals and groups of people and communities that really can be the change agents. They are the ones that can make a positive difference, and I think this is a great example of that.”