Visual arts

Art project aims to spread joy by giving gifts

“It’s kind of like the ‘Give a penny, take a penny’ concept,” said PSU graduate visual arts student Alex Russell, who recently started a community art project called “Buds!” Photo provided.

Pennsylvania winters can seem to drag on in a depressing, endless expanse of cold, gray days and nights, so when the first flower buds begin to break through the ground, they often bring a sense of joy and hope that spring really happens.

It’s a sentiment that Alex Russell hopes to evoke with his new community art project, “Buds!”

Russell, a Penn State graduate student in visual arts, embarks on the project with the help of funds from a $1,000 fund 3 Dots Awesome Foundation Grant. With the help of other Penn State art students, Russell makes papier-mâché sculptures designed to look like plant buds, which she calls “little gift centerpieces.”

The sculptures range in size from 12 inches to 20 inches in height. They are brightly decorated with sand, paint and mirror mosaic, and include a removable lid so small items can be placed inside.

Russell hopes people will sign up online to be “bud hosts”, responsible for placing small gifts inside a bud and placing it in a public space where it can be found. The rules are rather loose, although each bud comes with a little sign that prompts the seeker to open the bud to receive or give a gift.

“It’s kind of like the ‘give a dime, take a dime’ concept,” she said.

“Ideally, people will give and receive gifts from them organically. This is what the host and his neighbors decide to do.

Bud’s hosts will display the buds at their Center County home or business for several weeks until March 28, when Russell hopes the hosts will join her on a walk from downtown State College to the Zoller Gallery. on the University Park campus. There, the buds will be displayed until April 1 as part of Russell’s thesis show. Then Russell will send the buds back to the hosts for them to use as they wish.

“The main thing is to create unexpected joy, really, for everyone. I think the sculptures themselves are a bit colorful and strange, so I think just their presence can create those moments, something like walking around and finding things that bloom and it feels like a gift,” she said.

“I hope when people open them and find something like a little note or something inside that it reminds people that other people are open to giving gifts and sharing, and I think that’s really special.”

Anyone interested in becoming a bud host can register via a link via the 3 Points website:

Russell invites people to post photos of the buds and giveaways on social media as they come across them, using #CentreCountyBuds as a hashtag.

This story appears in the March 10-16 edition of the Center County Gazette.