Trains on Main [The Natural Thing to Do]

If you’re curious to see the behind-the-scenes process of how this art project was made (including the scribbles on paper that started it all), check out this post first.

If you’re ready to see the final piece, carry on!

“The Natural Thing to Do”

Here is my finished train, titled “The Natural Thing to Do,” accompanied by a walkthrough of the meaning it holds for me.

I chose the themes of humanity, connection, and unplugging because they’ve been on my mind most frequently this year, and seemed a worthy conversation for our Waunakee community.


The glossy “technology” side represents the curtain that we often hide behind, shielding the world from seeing our broken bits, and sharing just a polished version of what goes right.

Today technology is often used as a way to escape the more difficult human emotions or everyday moments of slight discomfort, rather than sitting with them in silence and feeling fully.

If we’re not careful and attentive, click-bait headlines and addictive technology can prevent us from marveling at the natural world, celebrating our flaws, and experiencing beautiful moments of connection with other human beings.

To contrast, the colorful “human” side of my train serves as a reminder that behind every shiny website, single tweet, and face in a crowd, we are all works in progress with messy pasts and presents.

Nothing is black and white; it’s all so much more complicated than it may appear. And yet that’s what makes human life so beautiful.

When we can be vulnerable and share the things we often hide from, setting aside our shields to show up as our true selves, that’s an incredible opportunity for meaningful connection.

Furthermore, knowing that all human lives are works in progress, messy, flawed, and complex—this calls for daily patience, kindness, and compassion towards all others. As the H. Jackson Brown Jr. quote goes, “Remember that everyone you meet is afraid of something, loves something, and has lost something.”

I aimed to captured this idea with two different quotes on my train, the first flowing nicely into the second.

The flowers serve as a reminder that we’re all growing and a part of nature, and I used the Japanese art of Kintsugi for the mug. (Kintsugi involves repairing broken pottery with gold, often making pieces more beautiful than before they were broken—a great metaphor for life.)

Finally, the birdhouse offers a waist-high safekeeping for a notebook, which invites viewers to share moments of human connection and their vulnerabilities—a chance to connect and dare greatly right here in our community.

Public Reception

The trains were due on Friday, June 2 at the Chamber of Commerce. With the birdhouse attached, though, I thought my train would be too tall to sit up in a vehicle. I didn’t want to risk the birdhouse falling off by tipping it sideways, so a wagon seemed to be the ideal mode of transportation. My Grandma lent me hers, so I loaded it up and walked it through town that Thursday, on my way to the Chamber of Commerce.

The following Thursday was a public reception, where all eight trains were on display, and their artists each took turns telling a bit about the inspiration behind it.
Photo Credit: Mom
Photo Credit: Mom
Photo Credit: Mom
Photo Credit: Mom
Photo Credit: Carly / Hannah
Thank you to everyone who was able to come out that evening (shoutout to those not pictured but in attendance: Mom, Dad, Julie, Abby, Carly), and to all who have encouraged my creativity, individuality, and growth—you’re all over the globe and across the internet.
And of course, a big thank you to everyone who made this project possible: Kristina, the Waunakee Area Chamber of Commerce, Endres Manufacturing Co. Foundation, the Village of Waunakee, and all people supporting the arts in our community.
Abby and I went back to check out the trains after dinner, and distant rain brought about a stellar double rainbow in the background!
It was especially fun to see all of the other trains that day—such a variety of materials, themes, and inspirations:

All trains can be seen at the Chamber of Commerce in Waunakee, WI from now until mid-September, 2017. They will be auctioned off at Wauktoberfest this fall.