Student chalks up success story

Marc Quirion can tell you how small, everyday occurrences can steamroll into something much bigger than expected.

The Western Faculty of Education student unexpectedly came across just such an incident, which has since flourished into a website with submissions from New York and Tennessee to Alberta and B.C., even as far away as England, Paris and South Africa.

What could it be, you ask? Chalk art.

“I walking to class during my undergraduate studies at the University of Waterloo and I saw that someone had written, ‘You are beautiful’ in chalk on a lamppost,” said Quirion, adding it made him smile a little but, more importantly, made him think.

“I thought it was such a simple gesture someone made, yet it has the opportunity to put a smile on so many other faces as they walk by. Whoever wrote that short message took 30 seconds out of their day and I would imagine I wasn’t the only person to walk by and appreciate it.”

Quirion saw the potential in using chalk as a medium to spread some smiles and to create some art while not harming anything.

Along with friend Mike DiPietro, Quirion bought the domain name chalkthoughts.com just over five months ago and has been enjoying the experience ever since.

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The site invites visitors to share their thoughts in chalk, from anywhere in the world, and then post them for all to see. Favorite quotes, lyrics, thoughts and drawings on everything from sidewalks and street signs to boat docks and guardrails fill the pages of the site, now boasting a couple hundred images.

“There has never been a time where we have doubted our efforts or the time spent on the website,” he said. “This project has been a great experience and it is a great hobby for us at this point that we enjoy working on together.”

While initially populated only by Quirion and his friends, that changed a few months after launch when they received their first random submission.

“This was huge and we were both ecstatic,” Quirion said. “Someone from another part of the world had seen our website and decided they had something to share, too. It was an amazing feeling and it still excites me when we get someone who emails us with a picture that they took with our website in mind.”

With a growing library of chalk art, random thoughts and inspirational quotes, Quirion said it’s encouraging to know that people are on board with his project and want to be part of it.

“You can also find some touching pictures, like the one at the Terry Fox monument in Thunder Bay,” he said. “All it says in chalk, at the base of the monument, is ‘Our Hero.’ It may only be two words, but it is a very powerful image.”

Quirion even received an email in response to that photo saying how it made the writer tear up.

“When I read that email, it really encouraged the idea of chalkthoughts.com for me. I knew the idea, and the work we have put in, does indeed strike a chord with people,” he said. “A simple saying written in chalk, paired with a fitting background, can have a lasting emotional impact on people.”

From its humble beginnings in May, to almost 2,000 visitors each day now, Quirion said his website has taken on a life of its own. But with schooling taking front and centre, chalking must now be a secondary activity. Or not.

“I still find myself chalking every opportunity I get,” Quirion said. “I carry chalk in my car, my backpack and I always make sure to put some chalk in a Ziploc bag for when I walk the dog or go for a run. You never know when you will see something that inspires you, or a cool spot to leave a message for the morning commuters.”