Appleton, WI, USA


Appleton joined the Compassionate Cities campaign with a community art project that showed how compassion affects daily lives. Starting with high school students, the project began the process of getting the community involved in a discussion of compassion. The project started in Fall 2010 by giving 10,436 Appleton students a 6 by 6 inch art panel. Each student then depicted on their panel how they viewed compassion. The panels were then put on display at the Trout Museum of Art.

Facebook: Appleton Compassion Project Page

T63442 Siamof tilehe Appleton Compassion Project

What does the word compassion mean to you? If you had to draw a picture of it, could you? In Appleton a unique collaborative project is taking shape, challenging through the merger of the sciences, arts, and letters the ways in which we consider compassion and what it means to be human.

The inspiration behind the new Appleton Compassion Project came in 2008 when Trout Museum of Art executive director Tim Riley saw a "Brain to Five" series presentation on the science of compassion by UW-Madison neuroscientist and Wisconsin Academy Fellow Dr. Richard Davidson. Supported in part by the Wisconsin Academy and hosted by the Appleton Education Foundation and UW-Madison's Waisman Center, Davidson's presentation highlighted research indicating those who exhibit compassionate behavior are generally happier people. What's more, Davidson's research shows that compassion can be learned—and practiced—as a skill. In this way, "a little more joy might be within everyone's reach," says Davidson.

Davidson's words sparked an idea in Riley, who envisioned a way to facilitate the understanding and perhaps enhance the practice of the rather complex emotion in a large and creative swathe of the community: children. In the fall of 2010 Riley and Jim Heiks, the visual arts coordinator for the Appleton Area School District, began the ambitious Appleton Compassion Project by distributing six-by-six-inch art panels to all 10,436 Appleton Area School District (AASD) K-12 art students with an invitation to draw or paint their concept of compassion. Every student also was asked to write a brief statement about his or her work.

The science behind Davidson's research suggests that this sort of contemplation is good for our brains, contributing to better neuroplasticity, which is how brains grow. "Davidson's research on the brain—while admittedly a daunting subject to many of us—has shown that the scientific method is a useful tool in building an argument for compassion, too," says Rile.  See more

Celebrating Compassion through Science, Art & Writing

During the 2010/2011 school year, students in art classes within the Appleton Area School District – a total of 10,436 from kindergarten through 12th grade – were asked to illustrate their idea of compassion on a small tile. Showing thousands of different meanings for one word, the artwork within the Appleton Compassion Project – combined with a brief narrative – was turned into a special exhibition at The Trout Museum of Art.

To celebrate this one-of-a-kind mosaic, an Appleton Compassion Project Live! presentation and performance was staged at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center. This inspirational evening featured:

Dr. Richard Davidson, world-renowned brain scientist from UW-Madison’s Waisman Center and the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds
Performance by the Appleton North High School Choir, with national recording artist Cory Chisel
A multimedia presentation of the students’ artwork
Poetry from former Wisconsin Poet Laureate Ellen Kort

See Compassion

Dr. Richard Davidson (Center for Investivating Healthy Minds/Waisman Center at University of Wisconsin-Madison) introduces His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the Appleton Compassion Project. His Holiness delivers a message to the citizens of Appleton, Wisconsin.

On October, the Fox Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Appleton, Wisconsin held an event and flash mob for One Billion Rising and on behalf of ending violence against women. Congregants and community organizations joined as did the Women of Congo.

On V-Day, February 14 women, accompanied by men and children will rise, dance and celebrate womanhood while bringing attention to the nature of violence against women. For more information and a toolbox to plan and hold your own event, go to

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