If the shoe fits..

By ABIGAIL LENZ ALLEN,

Hattiesburg Arts Council's SmART space has been making weekly visits to Earl Travillion attendance Center for five years now. The relationship that has grown is very precious to us.

The school is fearlessly led by Kristina Pollard, whose work ethic and leadership skills are unparalleled. She is a very bright light and Hattiesburg is lucky to have her as a contributing member of our community.

In 2019, I was driving through Palmers Crossing on my way to teach our fourth grade students at Earl Travillion. As I pulled up to a stop sign, I saw something floating above me.

Upon closer inspection, I realized it was a pair of sneakers and they were not floating, they were hanging from a telephone wire.

I have seen this throughout my life and always wondered why the heck are those sneakers up there? 

I decided to ask the fourth graders about it. “Have you guys ever noticed sneakers hanging from telephone wires?”

Just about every kid raised their hand.

“Well, can you tell me why people do that?”

Everyone wanted to give me an answer and they enthusiastically raised their hands. 

I began calling on kids and very quickly realized that there were a bunch of  varying opinions about this odd ritual. "It's to mark territory" said one of the students. "It's so bad guys know where bad stuff is going on!" said another.

Honestly, the most believable answer that I heard during our conversation was "It's when someone gets beat up, they take their shoes and throw them up high so they have to walk home beat up and barefoot. It's to shame them."

After all of their theories had been presented, I said "well all those things make me sad. Who wants to be reminded to be sad when you're  in your own neighborhood?"

That's when it happened.

A very quiet little girl raised her hand politely and said "it would be much cooler if they hung flowers up there." Then another little boy, tough as nails, said “Hey Miss Abi!  YOU and Miss Ellen could make some flowers and hang them up there!”

And just like that, our sneaker project was born.

“Oh we're going to do one better than that. YOU'RE  going to make something… And then WE will hang it up there – TOGETHER”

Special thanks to Brian Saffle at Signs First for creating and donating the sneaker cut outs.

Allen is a singer, dancer, and all-around artistic wunderkind. She is one of the co-founders of Hattiesburlesque and works with the Hattiesburg Arts Council to bring smART Space to life to area students. She’s also wife to Brad and mother to daughter Francis.