Palo Alto community members are gathering behind Henry M. Gunn High School until late Sunday afternoon to create an art installation to foster togetherness and celebrate unity.
The project began on Wednesday, and the work created by participants this week will be on display to the public beginning Monday, according to the Gunn activities website.
The centerpiece of the project, a mural entitled “Breathe With Me”, features a set of canvases on which participants are invited to “paint their breath” in an effort to celebrate life and wellness. The idea for the installation was first envisioned by Danish artist Jeppe Hein at the United Nations Youth Climate Action Summit in 2019 and has since been replicated in six countries around the world.
“Life begins with an inhale and ends with an exhale,” Hein wrote on his website. “In between, we all breathe and live different lives … And yet, each breath keeps us together, connected, sharing the same air.”
Project organizer and Gunn parent Svetlana Gous says she brought “Breathe With Me” to Palo Alto to foster a mindset of camaraderie within the community.
“I wanted to emphasize the community spirit of the project rather than individual achievement that is so prevalent in this community,” Gous said.
“I really hope this helps us start to recover from the chaos of the pandemic. It’s been so hard for so many people, and I hope it’s a nice step forward for us to come out of this pandemic, helping our community and focusing our efforts on what really matters.”
— Kate Rose, student volunteer
According to Creative Director Melissa Alpan, the event was planned to coincide with Earth Day on April 22 and World Book Day on April 23.
Located in a grove of trees behind Gunn’s soccer field, the installation of blue-striped “breathing canvases” shares space with a host of other art projects. Recycled material sculptures made by Gunn art students dot the area while donated books hang on a fence next to the canvases. A tree strung with reflections written and hung by visitors stands to one side.
Participants are directed by volunteers to inhale deeply, pick up a paintbrush and paint long stripes from top to bottom of a canvas spanning the length of their exhale.
The Nueva School junior Kate Rose was one of many volunteers who contributed to the project.
“I really hope this helps us start to recover from the chaos of the pandemic,” Rose said. “It’s been so hard for so many people, and I hope it’s a nice step forward for us to come out of this pandemic, helping our community and focusing our efforts on what really matters.”
Gous says she hopes this installation is the first of many events to use art to bring people closer together.
“I would like for Palo Alto to have more public art for people to be able to express their feelings and thoughts openly and thoughtfully,” Gous said. “We would just like to stimulate creative thought in the community.”