A City Pays it Forward

For Random Acts of Kindness Day, we are happy to share our official video for our City-Wide Pay it Forward coffee chain on Feb 4.

On this day, a Madison, Wisconsin we wanted to initiate not just a ripple of kindness, but a tidal wave of kindness in the community.

There were 10 participating coffee shops. Over 1,000 people bought coffee for a stranger in this awesome day (and only half the coffee shops were counting people!)

Big thanks to Grant Brooks at Momentum Medium for shooting it!

Shared words:

“ Thanks for reminding us that even these small acts can make both us and others feel good.”

“Just wanted to share that several friends not involved in the event have reported getting their coffee paid for by the person ahead of them over the weekend and into today, and I think it’s totally due to this still! It’s put the idea in people’s minds. Fun to see how far these things can spread”

“ What I loved about today was the anonymity. The generosity of the stranger ahead of me. Not knowing the one behind me, and his response. How often do we do kind things for strangers without any expectation of anything, even a thank you in return? Not enough.”

“ I think I’ll be smiling all day from these tiny acts of kindness or secret missions that people are doing all over Madison today. In drive thru coffee shops not only order your coffee but buy the one for the person behind you. I just bought a coffee for the lady waiting behind me and while we were waiting for our orders to come out, she hopped out of her car and expressed how thankful she was and that no ones ever done that for her before. Spread happiness.”

❤ Thank you Madison Community Discourse for creating this amazingly simple and moving event.”

“ So far, so good! Just came from MOKA on E Wash. My coffee drink was paid for (thank you to the gentleman in front of me!) and of course I paid forward.”

“ I am not in Madison, but I just did a pay it forward parking payment. Not sure the reaction, but I felt good about it. Here’s to paying it forward!!

“Paid for the car behind me in line at Starbucks Gammon Place. It felt good!#mcdhappiness #payitforward

January 2017 News and Updates

Christopher Peterson has a three-word summary of positive psychology: “Other people matter.”  As a community arts nonprofit, we are committed to people.  It is our mission to connect people, strength people, activate people through art and discourse.

It has been an incredible start to study on happiness, and it’s an honor to work with you to fulfill this mission.  In the four short months since we have started this study on happiness, we have hosted eight workshops, interviewed 75 people, and cultivated a safe and welcoming environment for over 900 participants.

This has been a great start, and we are excited to announce the next phase of the study: the Secret Missions.  This is where our workshops build art, evolve into creative placemaking events, and see tidal waves of change in our city.  We will be announcing a lecture series, pop-up interactive art pieces, and our exhibition dates.

Other people matter to us.  YOU matter to us, and we couldn’t do this without you.  As always, we are thankful for your participation, your vulnerability, and your efforts to bring this city together through art and discourse.

We wish you a warm, safe, and happy New Year.

Mallory Shotwell

January 2017 Events

Happiness and Routines:  Make a New Year

Saturday, January 21
Goodman Community Center 

Participants will create a set of attainable goals for their lives, set or reset their path, and connect with others.

This workshop will not be a drop in experience. Instead, we are creating a space where people can explore their own experiences, and those around them. In this immersive experience, we are encouraging people to dig in, wear their hearts on their sleeves, and begin to create the life that you are meant for.

Limited seating, so please sign up soon.


Happy Hour: Happiness and Routines 

Wednesday, January 25
Crescendo Cafe

Happy Hour is a philosophy group that discusses different aspects of happiness in our lives and in the community.

We will be sharing ideas on the topic of happiness and ritual or routine. Particularly looking at the routines that we have with ourselves and other people. Which of these are healthy? Do these lead you to a life of happiness or contentment? Are you leading a life that you want, if not, how does one redirect themselves to a life that they want?


February 2017 Events

Random Acts of Kindness:
Interactive Art Workshop

Saturday, February 18
Hawthorne Library

In this drop-in event, artists from across Wisconsin will be joining us for an interactive art workshop. For this unique event, each artist will be setting up a station for participants to create art or pieces for random acts of kindness.

Featured Artists:

Jennifer Bastian: offering tea and conversation
Danika Brubaker: sharing ‘For the One Who Finds Me’ providing flower bouquets for strangers
Anja ‘La Prosette’ Notanja Sieger: Current Artist in Residence at Redline Milwaukee, offering personalized typewriter poetry for participants (See her featured on CBS Sunday Morning!) 
Katrina Lord: From @MKELoveLetter, Katrina will offer a station to write love letters to strangers
Mallory Shotwell: providing a positive spin on the parking tickets

This event is designed to create a wave of random acts of kindness in the Madison community. Each of these artists work independently, serving strangers in their actions, and hoping that these actions stir up other random acts of kindness. When we bring all of these people together, we create a tidal wave of kindness in the community.

Come to participate, be a part of the waves, and watch what happens.


Happy Hour: Happiness and Kindness

Wednesday, February 22
Field Table

Happy Hour is a philosophy group that discusses different aspects of happiness in our lives and in the community.

February will be our analysis on kindness and happiness. What is the relationship between kindness and happiness? How is kindness interpreted if you don’t understand it? Are there universal forms of kindness? Can you have happiness without kindness? Or kindness without happiness?


Secret Missions 

Starting in February, we will start our secret missions.  Secret, pop-up creative placemaking endeavors that will encourage participation, art, discourse, and community development on a large scale.

We will only be sharing these on our facebook group, so please join us below to see what we’ll be doing.

Participate in the Secret Missions Here 

Madison Community Discourse | News and Updates | Community art nonprofit


MCD connects community through art and experience. Each year we study a theme and connect community through the hands on workshops, creative placemaking events, interviews, and exhibition that we offer.

Art and discourse are at the center of what we do.  It is how we connect.  It is how we reflect and honor the reflections of those around us.

One of the components of our community study on happiness is the interviews.  We are interviewing 200 people across Madison to build a ‘portrait’ of what happiness is in our town.  The response has been incredible.  45 interviews have been completed in a span of five weeks!  Click here to see the stories and ‘portrait’ as it is developing.

In October, we also hosted two workshops.  A hands on art workshop and our ‘Happy Hour’ discussion group.  We had a great attendance and support at both events.  It is amazing to watch the mission working as strangers connect, share, and are open with one another.

If you were unable to make it to the workshops, we have the questions that we asked and explored at them here.


Community art madison wi

Happiness Interviews

Saturday, November 12 9am-12pm
Cafe Zoma
2326 Atwood 

There has been such an incredible response to the interviews that we are creating a new event each month to include more people.

The following times will be offered at Cafe Zoma to interview people on happiness. It will take about 10 minutes, but we are scheduling them for 20 minutes just in case they go over.

Please reply to this email if you would like to take one of the times below.

9:00am: taken
9:20am: available
9:40am: available
10:00am: available
10:20am: available
10:40am: taken
11:00am: available
11:20am: available
11:40am: taken

community art madison wi

Madison Community Discourse and Polka Press present  :::

Printmaking demos
Gratitude writing workshop
Thank you cards to print and purchase

Sunday, November 20 1-4pm at Polka Press
2132 Fordem Avenue 

Join us for an afternoon of thank you card making and writing. We will provide prompts for expressing gratitude, inks and papers for printing cards, plus envelopes and postage so that we can mail your cards at the end of the day. There will also be a variety of thank you cards printed by Polka Press members available for purchase.

$5 / three cards to print or purchase (all supplies included)

Please bring one non-perishable food item to donate to the Goodman Community Center Food Pantry

discourse madison wi

Happy Hour is a philosophy group that discusses different aspects of happiness in our lives and in the community.  We are inviting people, regardless of education or philosophy background, to engage in a monthly community discussion on varying aspects and thoughts of happiness.
This is a group where people can connect with new people, share their ideas and thoughts, and these larger social issues on the topic of happiness. We believe that through this social discussion group, we can explore new perspectives and understand our community, and our world, better.

This month we talk about gratitude and its relation to happiness.

Wednesday, November 16 6-8pm
Harmony Bar and Grill
2201 Atwood 

RSVP here on facebook 


We are honored to participate in the BRAVA Women’s Expo.  

November 19 and 20 10am-4pm
Alliant Energy Center 

BRAVA’s signature event is back for its 17th year and we’re having even more sophisticated fun than ever! Find your passion, get inspired, shop for great finds, try a new activity, connect with dynamic women – and savor and sample your way through the weekend!

We will be offering a number of hands on activities that call participants to reflect on their own happiness and those around them.

It has only been one month, but we are honored with the incredible response we have already seen. We are seeing that it is helping people already, connecting people, and strengthening community through a stronger sense of belonging.

People are connecting through experience, people are connecting through art.  People are connecting in Madison.

We are thankful for the partners we have worked with so far and are really excited to share the news of the new partners and sponsors that we have for the year soon.

So many good things are coming.  Things will get bigger and better with each month, and this is just the start.

If you haven’t please like us on Facebook, see us on Instagram, or share this newsletter.

Hive Social Club  One-One Thousand  Cafe Zoma  Lazy Janes   Crescendo Espresso Bar and Music Cafe  Harmony Bar and Grill  Old Sugar Distillery   Barriques   Matrix Coworking   100State   Pinney Library  BRAVA Women’s Expo

We are always grateful for our fiscal sponsorship from Arts Wisconsin.


Madison Community Discourse | News and Updates | Community art nonprofit

We are so excited to officially start the year studying happiness in the city of Madison.  We are taking this on as a real study, ensuring that the people in our town truly are engaging with each other, connecting with each other, and building a stronger sense of belonging.

Our goal is to interview two hundred people over the course of the year.  In the two weeks that we have officially been working on the project, we have already interviewed 26 people and have started to release the interviews.  We will be releasing two a week over the course of the year.  All ages, races, genders, backgrounds will be our focus, reflecting what Madison really is and who the people in it are like.

Click on the pictures below to see our portraits of happiness that we have shared this month.

wp-1475244400511.jpg    barbara-0047


sarah-artz-0025         sara-meredith-0041


We are asking each and every person the same question and the results have been incredible.  People are so wise, so fascinating.  They each have their own perspectives and stories to share.  This is a vulnerable moment:  sharing your world with the public, and we are so honored when people participate.  

We are even more amazed and frankly, happy, when people are engaging in other people’s responses.  It gives a glimpse into someone else’s world, allows us to step into their shoes for a moment, and if we are lucky, we can see through their eyes.  The project, the goal, is already starting to work.  We are already starting to connect people through our website and through various social media.

There are two scheduled events for the coming month and we hope that you can attend.  

Our ‘making’ workshop will be an interactive art experience called Frame of Mind.  Here we examine positive thinking and its affects on our emotional state.  We present related research that we have collected on positive thinking, play a game that engages this topic, and create art that will help retrain your mind to think positively.


This free event will be held at the Pinney Library on October 15, from 10am-12pm.  It is designed for teens and adults, but children are welcome to interact as well.  There is the children’s play area in the library close by as well.  

The second event is our discussion group called “Happy Hour.”  Here we collectively discuss different components of happiness and what it means to us individually and as a community.  In this first Happy Hour, we will share our ideas about happiness and its definition. What does it mean and how does it shape our lives? Are we SUPPOSED to be happy all the time?

This is a group where people can connect with new people, share their ideas and thoughts, and these larger social issues on the topic of happiness. We believe that through this social discussion group, we can explore new perspectives and understand our community, and our world, better.

The first Happy Hour will be hosted at Old Sugar Distillery on October 26, from 6-8pm.  

All of the events and workshops that we are creating is building towards our exhibition that will be held in October 2017.  This will be unlike any other exhibition that we have hosted.  There are many details to work out, but it is all very exciting.  And hard to keep it secret.  Details to come as the months roll on.

We at MCD are committed to forming community partnerships of all kinds.  We have many worked out already, but if you have any suggestions or would like to be a part of the project, please email us at madisoncommunitydiscourse [at] gmail.com.

Please see more on our Frame of Mind workshop here.  

Please see more on our Happy Hour workshop here.  

We are on the forefront of an amazing year, the start of something that will change our city.    With this ripple of happiness, we will share in something great together, something that will make us happier, more connected.

Thank you so much for your support of the project.  We could not do it without you.

September News | A New Year, A New Study | Madison Community Discourse

What is happiness, anyway? And why do we need to study it?

According to Google, happiness is commonly searched term in Wisconsin. According to their topic search site, an average of 77 people a day search for the meaning of happiness or related topics in Madison alone.  We are looking for answers, we are looking for connection.

Happiness as defined by Websters and other modern dictionaries, cannot be defined without using a synonym of happiness.  Joy, elation, spirited are frequently used to describe such a word.

We at Madison Community Discourse are taking this topic by the horns.  We are studying it over a one year period – academically, socially, culturally, personally, to find what it means to the city of Madison.

Our mission?  To connect people through their experiences.  (The formal description is in the ‘about’ section) We want to make our city better, stronger, happier.  We believe that when people get to know one another, they understand people better, and they will care more.

How will we do this?

Our goal is to interview two hundred people over the course of one year.  People of all ages, races, genders, religions, backgrounds.  We are ensuring that a very diverse crowd of people are interviewed in this process.  We ask people one question, photograph them, and share their photo on this site.  This creates a “portrait” of what happiness is in Madison.

We really want to reach people, engage them in their community. People are looking for happiness, seeking the answers online or in self-help books. We think the answers lie within ourselves, in the people around us, in the footprints of the people before us. We are also hosting events each month to get people thinking, talking, sharing, opening up, even becoming vulnerable to their community.  We want one less stranger, and one more friend.

There are two types of events that will occur.  One will be a discussion group for everyone called ‘Happy Hour’.  We offer ideas and we share them.  For example, what IS happiness, anyway?  What is it to you?  What does it look like?  What does it feel like when you experience that?  Do you seek happiness?

The second is an community art workshop that will be held monthly.  This is a ‘making’ workshop, where we explore topics that are related to happiness – joy, play, relationships, mindfulness, gratitude, kindness, legacy, and more.  Here we reflect and actively engage in activities that relate to our own interpersonal happiness.  Future events will include making gratitude lists, setting goals for our lives, brainstorming and jump-starting random acts of kindness, creating happiness maps, and more. We are expressing ourselves, and we are building a support network of people that will help you through it.

At the end of this study, in October 2017, we will have interviewed 200 people, hosted 24 workshops, built a ‘portrait’ of people sharing their wisdom and experiences, created a platform for support, expression, and wellbeing in our community, and we will share the work that the community has done in an interactive community art exhibition.  It will coordinate with gallery night of that month.

We are strong in our mission, and we are excited to bring it to you.  Each interview, workshop, day and month is dedicated to making our community stronger, connecting people who didn’t yet know each other, and shining a light of wisdom and beauty in a world where we need it.

Madison is searching for happiness.  Let us find it together.  Let’s be stronger through that.

I look forward to sharing the year with you and seeing where we go.