First impressions of Fitchburg

In coming full circle, I landed in Massachusetts, home of my sister and birthplace of my mother. I didn’t dream that life could change for me like a “New York Minute,” as Don Henley would say. I am back in the heart beat of a city. In relocating to Fitchburg, I can feel that the pulse is different. It is a multi-cultural city. There is a blend of social culture here that I find hopeful.

street art
street art

Youth took part in a art exhibit to beautify downtown. Instead of the blight of inner city manifestation, a mural art wall was put up and painted by youth, artists and others. What gives me hope is the fact that I perceive positive messages while I am engaged in looking at the small 12 inch by 12 inch drawings. I see multilingual messages. Some have hearts drawn, others have Asian messages, some are bi-lingual with words like love and peace.


Some squares have paintings of birds, trees and attest to the idea that nature is important. Each of the the display is unique. Take a look at the following article published by

PRIDE’S Building Blocks Community Project

As a city-wide public art & urban revitalization project, Building Blocks involves over 1000 artists, youth, and community members transforming a 160-foot long chain-link fence on Main Street into an innovative, dynamic, and collaborative community-building project. The large-scale project will consists of four major components including an educational temporary painted plywoodmosaic wall; a musical sculptural work activated by the wind; a scheduled series of performances, workshops, and other community events; and finally a permanent public art fence integrating a poetic range of materials and themes.

Building Blocks was conceived to inspire public participation in the arts, urban revitalization, and the beautification of downtown Fitchburg. It will highlight how collaborative public art can positively transform the lives of countless numbers of individuals.  Art has always had the ability to educate, entertain, comfort, challenge, and heal.  Building Blocks will become a catalyst for personal and communal pride, urban and economic renewal, and the creation of high quality artworks that will assist to create safe and meaningful urban spaces and environments for the betterment of the City of Fitchburg.

Building Blocks project goals include: 

  •  Cultivating strategic partnerships between civic, educational, cultural social and business leaders.
  • Developing collaborative urban design projects, exhibitions, public artworks, and special events.
  • Create opportunities for artists, youth, and community members by sharing their talents with a large public.
  • Promoting downtown Fitchburg through publicity, outreach, marketing, and fundraising initiatives.
  • Assisting the City to become a more unified through art, creativity, and community celebration.
  • Encouraging cultural diversity and awareness by incorporating the underlying themes of the appreciation of different cultures.
  • Highlighting the role of the arts in civic dialogue, economic development, and creative economy initiatives.

Click Here for more In-Process Pictures

Happy Tonics attends conservation conference

Ray Powell and Mary Ellen Ryall
Ray Powell, Jane Goodall Institute and Mary Ellen Ryall, Happy Tonics.

Albuquerque, NM – Ray Powell, Jane Goodall Institute and former Land Commissioner of New Mexico, spoke about youth and that they are disconnected from nature at the Xeriscape Landscape and Water Conservation Conference held in Albuquerque, NM.  Mary Ellen Ryall, Shell Lake, of Happy Tonics, attended the conference.

Richard Louve wrote a book on this subject titled “The Last Child in the Woods.” Powell stated that the average youth spends 30 minutes outside each day. This time is not necessarily playtime but rather time it takes to walk to and from the car, bus or to ride a bike to and from school.

Youth environmental educators need to make a bridge for youth to grasp the message that it is their world that they are inheriting. Goodall says, “We have a choice to make use of our life and make the world a better place.” Considering that youth of today have become cynical, educators ned to understand the root causes, be compassionate, give hope and help youth feel empowered.

When communicating with youth, one needs to understand that 7 percent of what they understand is verbal, 38 percent is vocal tone and 55 percent is in body language. The message we are giving kids and they understand on an average of 50 percent is, “Do we care?”

Happy Tonics of Shell Lake plans to sponsor several youth environmental education opportunities this summer. Their goal is to change behavior from one of hopelessness to hope and to encourage youth to participate in healthy outdoor environmental education, activity, advocacy and action.