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‘Chalkbus’ inspires drawings and connectivity

Stacey Squire writes a positive message on one of the doors of the Chalkbus on Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019, in American Fork, Utah.
Stacey Squire writes a positive message on one of the doors of the Chalkbus on Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019, in American Fork, Utah. Michael Schnell

No matter where he parks his VW bus coated in chalkboard paint, Jonathan Sherman comes back to find great new art adorning the sides.

Once a week, he washes it and creates a new canvass for the amateur artists of American Fork who are inspired to fill its sides.

The story behind what has become known as the "chalkbus" even inspired a mini documentary by college students, the Daily Herald reports .

The idea to make it a rolling chalkboard came to Sherman when the bus was due for a new paint job and he painted it black matte primer and then gazed over at his daughter drawing chalk on the sidewalk. He invited her to try and the van, and the plan was formed.

"People were like, 'Oh, you shouldn't do that, people are going to draw all kinds of horrible things on there,' you know, 'You're asking for trouble,'" Sherman said. "People really haven't drawn anything bad on there, they always draw cool things."

He started driving it several years ago, and frequently finds drawings when he parks it in at the movie theater or grocery store. When he find someone drawing on the bus, he leaves them alone to finish before talking with them.

"It's always a positive conversation," he said.

Sherman, a licensed marriage and family therapist, said the bus seems to provide something people are missing. He takes it each year to the Out of Darkness Suicide Prevention Walk in Salt Lake City and lets people draw on it there.

"A lot of people are really disconnected in society. And a lot of people suffer in silence," he said. "Anywhere I can find a little small connection, I think it just alleviates a little bit of a burden somewhere for somebody to know that, you're seen and you matter."

A group Utah Valley University students were inspired by the bus and made a documentary about it. One of the students, Tyler McKinnon, called it a life-changing experience to work on the film.

"I've just noticed how many meaningful connections have come as a result of or have come because of the existence of the Chalkbus," McKinnon said. "Because the Chalkbus exists, I've made friends that I wouldn't have made. I've had opportunities that I wouldn't have had."

Sherman also uses the bus to let local bands play inside as he drives around. The recent third edition of the "chalkbus sessions" featured a band of local middle school teachers called, "Mid-Life Crisis."

Sherman said the bus gives him a chance to embrace his inner hippy.

"I want people to have peace, love and happiness."

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