This 'joy board' in Seattle's Wedgwood neighborhood has morphed into a glorious installation
The sound of laughter can be heard blocks away. Followed by an "oh" and perhaps "look at this one!"
If you follow the sounds they will lead you to Alana Healy's home at a corner of Seattle's Wedgwood neighborhood. There, you will find the Joy Board.
"I felt helpless,” Healy said. “Everyone is indoors waiting this out. And I wanted to help in some way.”
Stuck at home, she watched neighbors walk by.
“I was like, ‘What if we put something on this corner and see if it becomes something,'" she said.
The result is the Joy Board, which isn't a literal "board." It's two wooden poles and six strands of string stretched between them -- each spaced apart for people to hang pictures, messages, memes and more. The goal is for people to leave behind a little positivity in the midst of scary times.
“A lot of people have contributed since I started it," Healy said. "I started by Googling coronavirus memes and fun jokes, and I’m a big believer in affirmations so I wanted to put a couple of those up as well. Then neighbors walked by and said they loved it … one person posted about their grandparents saying ‘they made it through the (1918) pandemic, so can we.' Someone wrote a whole page on living well and happy ways.”
The Joy Board of Wedgwood
When the coronavirus pandemic came to Washington, the resulting headlines weren't too positive -- case numbers, death numbers, not enough personal protection equipment for hospitals, just to name a few. Parents were left inside with their kids out of school. Some people started working from home, and others went without work entirely.
On top of that, Gov. Jay Inslee's stay-at-home order limited what people can do and where they can go. But one thing people can do during this time is go for a walk in their neighborhood -- as long as they stay away from each other.
So late one night, Healy -- an artist and a mother -- went to the corner of her property with some string. She felt the Joy Board would at least be a good art project for her children during this time; their contributions went up along with a few jokes and memes that she printed out. And also, an invitation for neighbors to join in.
“The goal of the Joy Board is just to give people inspiration ... just know that we are all in this together,” Healy said. “Even though it feels so lonely being isolated in our homes, we’re not. We are a community and we can get through this together. Even though we cannot physically be there for people, we are mentally there for each other."
"And it’s to remind people every day that this is happening and we are going to get through it, and we are going to get through it together, and better days are coming.”
The Joy Board quickly grew as neighbors joined in, posting their messages, jokes, and works of art. Joggers now slow their stride while passing Healy's home. Walkers take photos. Some people come to hang their own contributions.
"A woman mentioned ‘I hope you never bring it down…’ another man said ‘I contributed to this, I think it’s wonderful…’” Healy said. “I’ve gotten a lot of gratitude from people for it being there. It goes both ways. As much as I’ve enjoyed putting stuff on there and contributing to it, I’ve also enjoyed getting back the smiles.”
Healy says that while the Joy Board was prompted by current events, it will stick around, even after the stay-at-home order is lifted.
It's one corner, in one city, facing the weight of a global pandemic. But instead of buckling under that weight, it's sending back out a smile and maybe a little inspiration down the road.
“I really wanted to find a way, with my family, to try and make people smile," Healy said. "That goal has definitely been achieved. It’s really nice looking out my window and seeing people walk up to it, look at it, and all of a sudden get a big smile on their face and walk away with that.”