The Gratitude Wall: Where Community Meets Personal Story

"It’s normally the things we overlook, when we are striving to find something better, that have the bigger impact"

In 2018, Gabriela Matouskova won the Creative Conscience award with her community led project, The Gratitude Wall. Her mobile blackboard has already toured museums, galleries, festivals, schools, and workplaces. It's where participants can share what they are grateful for. Recently, we had the opportunity to interview the artist and get an inside scoop on the original inspiration behind her project.

How did the project begin?
The Gratitude Wall started in experimental territory for the artist: Gabriela volunteered with Social Enterprise as a business adviser and came across the ‘Hope’ program led by the organisation. This program, that runs both in-person and digitally, helps people build up knowledge, skills, and confidence to manage the care required for people with chronic conditions. The artist explains:
"I come across the gratitude exercise by volunteering with Social Enterprise. They used it to help people and their relatives cope with illnesses such as cancer or Alzheimer's and to assist with the additional stress sickness can bring into their lives. I come across the Social Enterprise staff using this method and started using it myself. The project was a result of being inspired by these experiences, both other people’s and my own."

Where has it led?
Gabriela’s relentless imagination and determination to share this positive experience has led to the generation of 58 events and 11,914 contributions to the Gratitude Wall. Even during Covid-19 lockdown periods, the project kept running with Gabriela personally writing quotes on the blackboard that people sent her via social media.
Even though this community project became quite monumental, it all started with a simple act. Something we sometimes take for granted, but can make a huge difference. Gratitude affects people beyond reason, with hundreds of research papers on its positive effects to prove it. Although we may consider it an act so small it has no impact, the smallest act can bring out the best in all of us.

Stories of the impact:
"I started practising gratitude over two years ago and just regained force with the program. I used to do it with my son, he was six at the time. My mum passed away five years back and at the time it was really difficult. I had other personal issues too including losing my job - everything seemed to compound on me. The notion of gratitude got me through this painful period. Just seeing other people's contributions makes you feel grateful. It's humbling and uplifting to see how little things work."
The myriad of stories this project encompasses are beyond imagination. It's impressive to think that a blackboard, where you can write what you are grateful for, would have such an international appeal and such a positive one. As we progress the interview, the artist shares some of the stories gathered and how they have impacted upon her:

"I have stories of people who got out of addiction. People whose parents were in hospital and unlikely to come out. I took the wall to refugees and migrants, to global peace gatherings and they all had stories to tell. I have thousands of photographs too, because we take pictures of all the contributions. We have analysed the top five topics, and they all centre around family, friends and health.

The moment of seeing two people write something for each other is also very special, seeing their faces light up. It's pure joy to read other people's contributions and have people telling me their stories that otherwise, I’d never know."

The Gratitude Wall is brimming with hope and narratives that keep on giving. It makes us reflect, look back and be grateful for what we have, inciting us to walk forward with confidence and gratitude in our hearts.