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ARThrive’s wish trees in Park Library.

When you wish upon a tree

ARThrive installs Yoko Ono-inspired art pop-up connecting CMU, surrounding communities

Contact: Emily Stulz

​Paper tags flutter on the limbs of 12 hibiscus trees perched along the mezzanine of Park Library.

The aptly named Wish Trees are the final installation of a community art project created by ARThrive.

ARThrive, a small group of Central Michigan University faculty and staff and community members, has joined together to foster creative acts of kindness and compassion for self and community.

"It's not entirely art, it's not entirely counseling," said Al Wildey, faculty member in art and design. "It's not entirely CMU, it's not entirely Mount Pleasant."


Wish tree roots

Inspired by Yoko Ono's Wish Trees, ARThrive saw the opportunity for its inaugural project to connect different communities.

The initial step was to place the trees around the community, along with white tags and pens and the instructions to make a wish, write it down and tie it around the branches of the tree.

"This project is really an opportunity to reflect," said Michelle Bigard, associate director of the CMU Counseling Center. "You can't just make a wish on the fly. You have to really pause and think about it and what's in your heart for that moment."

Next, the trees were brought together to visually represent both the individual wishes of people and the wishes of the many different communities as a whole.

"If we look at all these tags, each tag represents one person's thoughts and feelings," said Kim Kleinhardt, director of 515 Gallery in Clare, Michigan and member of ARThrive. "Sometimes we feel helpless against things that are happening in the world and that we don't really have a say. These tags show that we do."

A wish upon a tree

In early November, ARThrive placed trees in the mid-Michigan community as far away as Northwood University in Midland, Michigan, and as close as the Ziibiwing Center in Mount Pleasant. On campus, trees were placed in residence hall lobbies, the Student Activity Center, Foust Hall and Park Library.  

Now, the trees stand together the library, teeming with the wishes.

"It's a reminder of the goodness of people," said Annette Thornton, faculty member in communication and dramatic arts. "It's a reminder of the power of words, the power of expression, the power of community." 

After finals are over, ARThrive will distribute the trees to interested community agencies. The group will hold onto the wishes and turn them into another art piece for the community to share. As for what that project is, it has yet to be decided.

"Whatever we decide on will be impressive, because the materials we are working with will be supplied by our communities," Wildey said.

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