Local Sioux Falls artist Jillian Gunlicks is a deep believer in intuition, finding hope in unimaginable circumstances, and knowing when the timing is right to do the next thing.

That is what has brought her to start The Kalon Project: A collection of 22 stories of people in the community who have found healing and joy after painful, life-altering experiences. These stories include overcoming depression, surviving cancer, losing a loved one, and recovering from rape and abuse, among others.

“There were a few people I knew that I was inspired by, and I knew pretty much everyone out there has some sort of struggle or something they’ve gone through, so I thought, ‘Let’s get some of these people together and tell their stories,’” Gunlicks said.

Definition of Kalon:

“Beauty that is more than skin deep.”

When local artist Jillian Gunlicks was searching for the right word to describe the storytelling project, she came across the word “kalon” and thought, “‘It’s exactly what I wanted this project to be – to showcase the beauty that people may not see in others.”

With these thoughts two years in the making, she reached out to downtown business owner (Chelsea’s Boutique and Conversation Piece) Chelsea Tracy to enlist her help. Two days later, they started a fundraising page that raised almost $2,500 in the first day. The money goes towards installing an art exhibit featuring the interviews. Each story will be told with audio, text, and a charcoal drawing or portrait painted by Gunlicks.

“To be able to see the beauty in someone and then hear their story and paint it, that for me will be huge and powerful,” Gunlicks said.

Gunlicks and Tracy’s own stories are also part of the 22. Ten years ago, Gunlicks was raped. One of the hardest parts of recovery, she says, was feeling disconnected from family, friends, and people. Time has made it easier for her to speak about the experience, and a few years ago, she realized she wanted to do more.

“I want to share with people how I got through it, and the different resources and support that I used,” she said.

She hopes that if someone who is struggling visits the art exhibit, they can find a story they connect with. But more than that, they hope they have the encouragement that life can get better, and that there are resources and people out there to help.

“You never know who or what will change the way you think about something,” she said.

This is the second time Tracy is sharing her story publicly. She recalled the first time she spoke about finding herself in a controlling marriage and lacking self confidence:

“I was literally shaking through it, but I got to the end of it, and I thought, ‘I need to do this again,’” she said. “I need to share my story, because it brought so much inspiration to other people, [along with] light, and hope, and love.”

Tracy considers her story one of finding herself, and becoming empowered.

And that’s what The Kalon Project is meant to do.

“It’s not meant to be this sad or depressing thing,” Gunlicks said. “It’s about the strength that people have.”

The two women are doing one interview a week from November to March. They don’t want to reveal who each person is until the launch of the exhibit in June, but they’re discussing a new topic on their Facebook page each week, along with sharing updates and resources.

Beyond the culmination of the stories, the pair has even bigger plans for The Kalon Project. They hope to have it tour through high schools and colleges.

“There’s some sort of blind faith and intuition that we’re meant to do this, and it’s going to happen, and it’s going to be awesome,” Gunlicks said. “It just feels right.”

Get Involved: 

Follow The Kalon Project Facebook page to hear about each weeks’ interview, to watch the exhibit come together, and to have access to additional resources that may help others going through similar struggles.

Donate at indiegogo.com/projects/the-kalon-project or paypal.me/thekalonproject to help reach their $15,000 goal. A $100 donation receives one ticket to the exhibit launch party in June, and a $10 donation results in Tracy and Gunlicks doing a random act of kindness.

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