The 6,000 canvases being displayed at the Pump House for the La Crosse Compassion Project create a powerful message of love and compassion, but it’s important to remember that each individual tile tells a different story.
For some, compassion is feeding the hungry. For others it’s comfort during cancer. What makes this project so unique is there is no right or wrong answer, compassion is different for everyone.
For Lily Herling, a sixth-grader at SOTA II, compassion means taking action
"It's not just feeling bad for someone. It's actually doing something about that, doing something for them to help them out,” said Herling.
Herling’s inspiration comes from her church.
"I wanted to do something with the world to kind of represent compassion around the world,” said Herling.
Every month, her family sponsors a young girl in another country
"You can send them money to pay for school, school supplies, clothing, food and housing,” said Herling.
Herling believes compassion is lending a hand, not only to those in your own community but around the world.
"People need to know someone out there cares about them,” said Herling.
"To me, compassion means showing empathy for another person and I personally believe everyone shows that differently,” said Joe Grosskreutz, a junior at Central High School.
For Grosskreutz, expressing compassion on a canvas was difficult.
"Compassion means so many different things to so many different people,” said Grosskreutz,
Because it was difficult, Grosskreutz doesn't define it.
"Having people interpret the image for themselves was important,” said Grosskreutz,
He uses symbolism. For example, the color yellow for optimism.
"I wanted to brighten it and make it like a sunrise kind of thing where people are looking forward to something,” said Grosskreutz,
Then he adds a butterfly as a sign of hope.
"Butterflies and other kinds of insects or birds migrate and they kind of bring that connotation or message with them wherever they go,” said Grosskreutz,
Grosskreutz’s artwork doesn't tell the viewer what compassion is but allows them to discover it on their own.
"To me it's kind of giving my voice through an image in a way and then allowing the viewer to see it and get their own interpretation from it and what they feel,” said Grosskreutz,
"It's kind of important to show what you think compassion means in any way, shape or form that you think it is, cause everybody has a different opinion,” said Muriel Severson, a fifth-grader at SOTA I.
For Severson, compassion is a universal language.