Over the past several months, The Montague Art team has received a flurry of amazing messages from adventurers, honeymooners, and road trippers who are carving out time in their trips to seek out Kelsey’s pieces in cities across the globe. Amanda’s family popped into our radar with her incredibly inspiring story. She agreed to interview with us and share her family’s remarkable #whatliftsyou summer road trip below.
Q: How did you find out about Kelsey?
Amanda: We found out about Kelsey Montague’s art visiting family in Nashville a couple of years ago. My parents, our children’s grandparents, hit the road during the winter months all over the south (from Louisiana up through Tennessee to South Carolina and Florida). During one of our visits we did a little Nashville sightseeing – the bluebird, Harper by river, and passed by the wings.
What motivates you to find so many murals?
Amanda: My husband and I have always been a bit nomadic and have really wanted to instill a sense of adventure in our children, but when we finally settled in Charleston, SC a few years ago it took everyone a little while to get used to a slower paced life.
My husband took a new job this year and us being away from one another really caused some angst, depression, and opened our eyes to how precious happiness and our time with one another was/is. We went with him as much as possible because being together meant more than living a calm life. Homeschooling our oldest children made that more possible.
We came up with a summer project instead of a summer “bucket list.” Our summer project would be to find just one thing, instead of a thousand things (as our life was feeling increasingly chaotic and stressful full of changes) to lift our spirits. First we thought “let’s just concentrate on art this summer,” and then we questioned how we could have fun with the art? Long story short, one question led to another which led to another and ended with us remembering Kelsey Montague’s #whatliftsyou interactive street art. Since we were on the road so much we committed to seeing as many as possible.
Q: What did you like about looking for & finding them?
Amanda: What started out as a simple homeschool and family summer project led us to learn more about one another, how precious our time together was, and how we wanted to spend that time. I posted on Instagram:
Visiting #kelseymontagueart this summer has given our family a project/task/opportunity to bond, play and learn about art together. We shared in a lot of beautiful memories, adventures and deep talks about lifting each other and others up. We only scratched the surface so maybe 20 years from now when our children are on their own adventures and pass a mural (maybe even a Kelsey Montague mural) on a street in New York, Rome, Paris, Beijing… they’ll think back on our summer spent together and smile.
…. and that kind of sums it up for us. She [Kelsey] and her work lifted us up this summer, kept us together, and I pray it’s one of those summers our children will always remember and be reminded of as they venture down their own paths in life.
Q: How many murals did you visit in total?
Amanda: We visited 17 murals, and we instagrammed our big days – 12, I believe are documented there.
Q: Do you, as a family, have a favorite mural you visited & interacted with?
Amanda: Everyone had a different favorite because each one spoke to us differently. I’d say our top favorites were probably the Giraffe because everyone thought it was unique and pretty. The balloons were fun to “play” and interact with, or one of the sets of Michigan (Ann Arbor or Detroit) wings because they held an emotional attachment.
Q: What was your mural road trip Itinerary?
Amanda: We began in Mobile, Alabama for the wings and butterflies.
Then we went up through Georgia… Atlanta, GA (dog park bar wings), Elijay, GA for kayaking and saw the balloons… We spent weeks in Chattanooga, Tennessee for my husbands job so we made the hike to Nashville, TN. We came home for some time and then hit the road again up the east coast. We saw the swings in Raleigh, NC. Spent the Fourth of July in our nation’s capital Washington, DC and visited her art work in the Smithsonian where one of the guards described her the day she worked and how she had a pile of sharpies — that blew our son’s mind… he LOVES to sketch doodle and draw for hours every day, especially with sharpies – this probably made her part hero in his eyes!
Then we went up to Maryland in the mosaic district for the pink Giraffe which is probably in our top 3 favorites because it was the most different and unique, says the kids, as well as Bethesda for the set of wings which everyone thought was the most impressive because the largest ones were soooo huge and put into perspective all of her different working conditions and they liked that they came in different sizes for each of them. Our one son has sensory disorder and the steps to the giraffe gave him something extra to explore… he often would ask why everything was so flat” I think he’d hope to feel something super bumpy or soft.
We went to visit family in Pennsylvania for graduation celebrations after that and stopped at the balloons in West Virginia. We were bummed to not have the energy to travel to the west corner of Pennsylvania to see the art in Pittsburgh.
After seeing family we left for New York where the kids read that Kelsey used to live and was sad to leave. Did all of the stuff – Central Park, Statue of Liberty, ground zero, FAO, etc., but most important the wings. Our son was super sad that they were fading and was cleaning up garbage all around them to tidy up for them! We were tired and it was time to head home to Charleston, SC. On our way home we stopped at the art in Atlantic City, New Jersey and Annapolis, Maryland. It was dark as we came near Norfolk, Virginia so we skipped those.
Another trip had been planned to visit our hometown in Ann Arbor, Michigan for weddings and another on site job for my husbands company. On our way up north we stopped at wings in Kentucky and then Liberty Center, OH for the balloons which were another favorite because they all liked jumping and trying to pretend they were floating away like on Mary Poppins.
We were able to see the wings in Ann Arbor, MI on U of M’s campus and these were also one of our top favorites. We probably sat gazing and discussing for the longest time… the iconic football helmets drawn in and the history of U of M and memories shared there, things we missed.
Another day we went down to Detroit, MI and this was probably our most active and fun day. Woodward Avenue hold so many memories and important themes of history (music especially). The kids were able to show off to their BaBa (maternal grandmother) all of their Kelsey Montague knowledge and ask questions about her generation and how it was portrayed in the art. Getting her to participate was exciting for them … the cross generational connection made was special.
We went back home and stayed put for a few weeks and decided we didn’t want to end on a tired note. So… we planned our last art of the summer to be Savannah, Georgia for the peach tree because it was a short two hour drive from home and Savannah is a nice day trip.
There was no set itinerary… whenever my husband got called away to work and whenever he was feeling in good spirits and the kids and I could let go of my type A routine at home and we could afford the time together financially, we pulled out a map and planned our route. We looked forward to hunting for her art — sometimes on tricky corners of buildings!
Q: Any plans for future mural adventures?
Amanda: We plan to visit one/year from here on out and we haven’t agreed on the one we will choose for 2020 spring break yet. Our children now track where she is when she posts instagram updates as part of their geography lessons with a globe and map. 🙂 We wish Kelsey the best on her adventures, endeavor, and applaud her work. We are so appreciative of what her art gave us as a family unit this summer.
Amanda and Chad Cook
Stone (7), Finn (4), Daisy (3), and Boden (1)
We are incredibly grateful for Amanda’s openness, vulnerability and inspired by her pure love & dedication to her family. You can see some of Amanda’s favorite family photos in this article and check out more memories from Amanda’s family road trip on her Instagram @fortheloveofcook. Thank you for sharing this special story with us, Amanda. The moments you create are magical!