Before most of us wake up on Friday, Transylvania University professors, students and community members will place 500 birdhouses in north and east Lexington at unnamed locations. They are free to anyone lucky enough to find one.
The birdhouses are gifts from members of the Community Engagement through the Arts class taught by Transylvania's Kremena Todorova, assistant professor of English, and Kurt Gohde, professor of art.
The project began last summer when Habitat for Humanity found far too many typewriters in its warehouses and far too little demand for them. In collaboration with CETA, the groups decided to ask community members to use them to type out their definition or perception of home.
The project, called "Build-A-Home Project," then incorporated some of those words onto birdhouses to drive home the point that a house is too important to each one of us to be unaffordable.
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"The typewriter project was really exciting to us," Gohde said. "We were going to decorate birdhouses anyway and we loved the idea of connecting with the project if we could."
They took the project to William Wells Brown Elementary School, the STEAM Academy, Sayre School, Arlington Elementary School, and the Living Arts and Science Center, where children built and painted the houses. Students at the STEAM Academy built and painted 100 houses in two days.
It was about community involvement, after all.
"People aren't asked for their stories," Gohde said. "So kids, no matter where they are, when asked what home means to them, they came up with incredible stuff."
As the classes unfolded, "someone would build a house and maybe start decorating it; then someone else would finish decorating it.
"We are comfortable saying that most birdhouses were made by at least two people," Todorova said. "In many cases, more than two people worked on each single birdhouse."
Archie Turner, who has been a community member of CETA for eight winter sessions, started some of the birdhouses, but has no idea how they ended up. And he will be there to place them on Friday.
Turner first met Gohde and Todorova when they visited the North Limestone Neighborhood Association meeting to talk about the CETA class they were starting.
"Their intent was for the students and the community surrounding the school to have a more interactive relationship," he said.
Intrigued, Turner, who has lived in and attended schools in the area, thought he might have some insights to share about Lexington generally and that area in particular.
"For me, houses are merely structures," Turner said. "Home is something we carry internally, nurtured by what we are taught and (what we) experience positively or negatively."
As the class has evolved over the years, he said, residents and students have opened up and shared those feeling with one another. While the mission remains the same, group projects change annually.
In previous years, CETA class members have stitched quilts, which were donated to the Americorps Build-A-Bed project; produced a documentary about the neighborhood around Transylvania and produced an art exhibit of items residents held dear.
They have painted temporary murals that adorned buildings along North and South Limestone, and created 1,000 dolls that were hidden along that same stretch of road.
Last year, schoolchildren made lanterns that were lit and hung at Castlewood Park.
Next year's project will involve superhero capes, Gohde said. The idea is to teach children to look inwardly for their heroes. As social activist Grace Lee Boggs said, "We are the leaders we've been looking for."
The capes would encourage children to believe they are the superheroes they seek, Gohde said.
So, look around the north and east sides of Lexington Friday morning for the birdhouses in neighborhoods you might not call home. The birdhouses will be distributed in places "the community people love and use frequently. Spaces that in the past were used but are now forgotten spaces. Each of the places will have large villages of bird houses," Gohde said. Read the heartfelt inscriptions. Then, thank Habitat for finding ways to keep houses and homes affordable for those who couldn't otherwise grab that American Dream.