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Billings South Side livened up by new poetry project

South Side Poetry Project
Posted at 5:10 PM, Jul 18, 2022

BILLINGS — If you’ve ever been walking down a sidewalk in Billings South Side, you may have noticed something etched into the sidewalks: those are poems and they’re scattered throughout multiple neighborhoods.

“We received a grant from the Kresge Foundation to really brighten up a neighborhood. So, we chose the South Side neighborhood,” said Eden Sowards on Monday. Sowards is the community health improvement manager working on behalf of Healthy by Design.

After years in the making, the South Side Poetry Project wrapped up last month. Its intent is to brighten the area with 18 poems stamped into sidewalks.

After meeting with several residents in the area, the project came to life when many wanted to make their neighborhoods more inviting. The Healthy by Design coalition worked with multiple partners to make that happen: Billings Public Works, Signature Signs, Knife River, Anna Paige and Tami Haaland of Young Poets and Western Heritage Center.

“Part of that was just identifying a lot of these broken-down sidewalks and getting creative with it,” said Sowards.

For allowing a poem to be printed in front of a resident's property, replacing the sidewalk came to no cost for the owner because of grant money.

They’re not just any poems either- they are actually written by the residents in the neighborhoods. A poem was selected from how well it fit into the Bright Side of the Tracks slogan for the neighborhood.

“The purpose is getting people out in their community, explore the area and enjoy a little bit of poetry as they go. And also, just socializing, creating more of that community connection,” Sowards said.

If you’re wanting to get out in the community to check out these poems, they’re located throughout the neighborhoods between First Avenue South, South 27th Street and State Avenue.

“Come and check them out because they’re near parks. They’re near really cool areas that people can explore,” said Sowards.