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Chalk art creations encourage mental health breaks

Taylor Tinkham stands next to a chalk drawing she made as part of CeMental Breaks, a movement she started and is hoping will catch on across the state, where she creates chalk drawings in public places encouraging mindfulness and reflection. Tinkham is seen near Water Power Park on Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019, in Minneapolis, Minn. (David Joles/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)
Taylor Tinkham stands next to a chalk drawing she made as part of CeMental Breaks, a movement she started and is hoping will catch on across the state, where she creates chalk drawings in public places encouraging mindfulness and reflection. Tinkham is seen near Water Power Park on Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019, in Minneapolis, Minn. (David Joles/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)

It was the color that caught Dave Goodhand’s eye. Walking along the Mississippi River around the St. Anthony Main area, he glanced down at the pavement and, almost subconsciously, heeded the instructions written in red chalk.

“Pause here.”

Hours earlier, Taylor Tinkham knelt in the same spot — a cement square of sidewalk in Water Power Park, which stretches onto Hennepin Island — drawing shapes and etching words.

“Take a deep breath,” she wrote. And: “What made you laugh today?”

Tinkham dusted off her hands, jumped to her feet and stood in the open blue circle she’d just chalked out. She closed her eyes. She exhaled.

“I always pause in my own CeMental Break,” she said.

That’s what Tinkham has dubbed the creations she’s sketching around Minneapolis to promote mindful living and mental health. Since April, a couple hundred CeMental Breaks have popped up throughout the city encouraging passersby to stop and take a moment for themselves.

The formula for a CeMental Break is simple. Each starts with an open circle and the command to pause. Then there’s a call to breathe and reflect — and usually a few doodles to add pops of color to the dull concrete or asphalt.

“My hope is that if someone’s in that place where they’re not feeling great — they’re down, they’re stressed, they’re frustrated, whatever it is — I can at least give them a moment in their day,” Tinkham said.