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Ten Thousand Flower Project hits the road for mural painting tour


Tim Gibson climbed into the driver’s seat – actually the only seat – of a blue shuttle bus he bought for $5,000 and turned the ignition key.

It was at that moment on a warm June morning that the enormity of his upcoming road trip – a six-month trek along the East Coast to spearhead mural painting in towns big and small – struck the 23-year old Perkasie man. He had spent so much time and energy planning the trip that he hardly thought about the implications until he pulled away from the parking space in front of his parents’ house.

The most challenging part of his dream to paint a continuous mural of 10,000 flowers through the United States was about to begin.

“I’d never been so scared to do something in my life before,” he said a few hours after departing. “Driving away from my home and leaving my family felt a little strange as I’ve never gone on an adventure solo like this before.”

True. This is nothing like the time Tim and his father, Mark, made a 700-mile capitol-to-capitol trip by longboard from Washington, D.C., to Ottawa, Canada. Or the time father and son ran down one side of the Grand Canyon and up the other. And there was the time they biked across Pennsylvania.

Besides being on his own, this journey is different because Gibson has no idea what to expect. He plans to spend a week in each location, meeting the local movers and shakers, identifying a spot for the mural and then rallying the community to come out and paint.

“It’s an exercise in how people will respond to an opportunity like this,” he said.

So far, he has relatively firm arrangements in New York, Virginia and South Carolina. For the other 23, he’ll just show up and wing it.

“I initially selected towns that demonstrate an affinity toward the arts,” he said. “However, I am keeping a very open mind. If unplanned locations present themselves as I tour, I am more than willing to embrace the spontaneous nature of the project and bloom murals wherever the seeds may fall.”

It was much easier when he launched the Ten Thousand Flower Project in his hometown about 18 months ago. Local officials embraced the idea immediately, so he started on a retaining wall next to Perkasie Borough Hall.

Since then, he’s added six more installations in the area, including one along a hallway at Pennridge High School. For his Bloom Voyage send-off event a few weeks ago, the owners of Per Diem, a co-working space on Market Street in Perkasie, allowed him to adorn their inside walls with colorful flowers.

In each case, community members were anxious to be involved, said Gibson. The Perkasie project started with half a flower at the beginning. Each succeeding mural connects to the previous one. When he finally reaches 10,000 flowers, it will connect to the beginning.

Gibson acknowledges it is an ambitious plan. It didn’t help that his anticipated financial partner, a paint company, pulled out at the last minute. It might mean fewer colors on the murals, he said.

Still, he pressed on with some help from a GoFundMe account set up by friends and will worry about money later. Leaving his mark on these towns in the form of a mural is his goal.

“My vision for this tour is to bring strangers together and challenge people to say ‘yes’ to a seemingly crazy idea and to show them what can happen when you embrace the spontaneous,” he said.

While the first few minutes of his journey were jarring, Gibson quickly settled in. After two days on the road he had reached the Little Black Checkpoint in northern Maine. He had to communicate by email from there because cell phone reception is spotty.

“I almost can’t wait for things to stray from the plan,” he wrote.“I know that’s when the adventure really starts.”