Foreword by Carla Willoughby

January 1, 2023

I was originally drawn to participate in the Resilienza Project as an artist. Several Monteverde artists had already created amazing chalk murals with positive messages, and they inspired me to join up. I was new to working with chalk, so I was hesitant, but I could feel a calling to let my artistic self be challenged. Yet multiple voices were vying for attention inside of me. My negative, insecure voice told me, “You aren’t good enough”, while my positive, affirming  voice told me, “You can do this.” Fortunately, I chose my positive inner voice to lead the way and volunteered to draw my first message.

The community chalkboard in Monteverde sits along the main road in a clearing surrounded by a green lawn, several buildings with local businesses, and large trees whose canopies tower above. On the Monday morning of my mural, I intentionally arrived early, practically at the crack of dawn, so that I could create my art mostly in private before people started their day and would be walking by. The typical cloud forest vegetation hugs the area and so in these early morning hours, the melodies of songbirds kept me company. 

The first act of creating the weekly chalkboard mural is the guilty pleasure of erasing the beautiful artwork from the previous week. The chalkboard is so tall that you have to grab a stepladder from the local mini-market to reach the highest points. Every artist has their technique, but mine was to gather water in a bucket, toss it onto the chalkboard and then throw my whole body into scrubbing off the chalk with rags. Eventually, the chalkboard shines a brilliant black, like a vast canvas of deep space. 

Standing in front of the empty blackboard was a powerful moment for me. I remember feeling excited and nervous at first, but then I took a step back and felt a moment of deep communion and prayer. I consciously centered myself on the feeling of how I wanted the artwork to be. Then, over the next couple of hours, I set about my creation. 

The light of day grew in intensity as I worked, and little by little people passed by as observers on their way to work, to run errands, or to hang out with friends. Conversations in the distance, the loud vocal calls of howler monkeys in the trees, the buzz of hummingbirds as they zipped by, the rumble of tourist vans passing along the road, and the laughter of kids at play made up the unique Monteverde soundtrack that I listened to as I created.

My whole body participated in the art-making, like a spontaneously choreographed dance. I moved in close to the chalkboard for detail, paced away from the board for perspective, and then back again.  I used the arc of my arm, and the center point of my body like a compass to draw a huge circle to help frame my design. I balanced on my tiptoes and stretched my arms as far as I could to draw in the hardest-to-reach spaces. 

With each stroke, I learned more about the chalk: how to layer it, how to erase it for special effects, how to hold it to adjust the thickness and texture of my lines, how to make bold colors or how to create shadows.  I smelled the chalk and felt the dust on my fingers and watched it color the dirt below me when I erased and refined my art. I watched the dark black spots of the wet chalkboard fade to dark gray as it dried. 

I settled into a place of trust and knowing within myself and allowed feelings of love, curiosity, and positive intention to guide my hand through my artistic process. The creation of the chalk mural became an active meditation and prayer. When I finally arrived at the place of feeling like the mural was complete, I stepped back to admire it. I felt so uplifted to see how it had turned out. By letting go of my nervousness and self-consciousness, I opened the channel for my artistic vision to shine through, and be transformed in the process. The mural and message together felt like a powerful and surprising gift.


Each Monday, I have the same feeling of receiving a powerful and surprising gift when the Resilienza artists share their photos of the positive message murals they have created. Each mural is infused with the unique energy and intention of the artist and their interpretation of the message. I hope that this creative spark that the artist ignites opens us up to a part of ourselves that boldly acts on our visions. If the future is like a blank chalkboard, my wish is that we, as community members, step up to the board with intention and love, and allow ourselves to design and create the future that we envision together.

Carla Willoughby

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