MADISON, NJ - Madison residents gathered at Short Stories Bookshop & Community Hub on March 11 to celebrate the Paint the Town Yellow campaign.  In celebration of the 5th anniversary of the United Nation’s International Day of Happiness (March 20) the borough of Madison became the first US town to launch this initiative.

In collaboration with UMEWE Public Benefit Corporation and Madison-Area YMCA residents attended an art gallery featuring  Optimism-inspired works at Short Stories Bookshop & Community Hub featuring International Optimism Yellow (a/k/a ‘INT-O Yellow’) - a color with a cause.

“As an artist, I started working with the color yellow as a symbol of hope and joy. I noticed that a lot of famous artists had a blue period where they worked mostly in blue and so it was clear that when artists came to my studio, they started working with the color yellow and it was unlocking something,” said Riley Johndonnell, creative director of UMEWE.

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With many artists suffering from depression, Johndonnell felt painting with the color yellow was a great way to make a positive impact in their life.

Over 30 local businesses have joined this cause by incorporating a piece of “optimism art” in their storefront. Many will also offer discounts to anyone wearing yellow on March 20 with a portion of their sales donated to Madison Area YMCA’s Community Mental Health Initiative.

Madison Mayor Robert H. Conley was excited to participate in this program.

“As I was getting ready today, I thought about the weather and what this day is all about. One day it was 70 degrees and then all of a sudden, as life often does, it was winter again,” he said.

He explained how it is easy to put on a sweater or hat and gloves to stay warm but, when it comes to dealing with mental health, there isn’t always such a simple solution. It take the support of the community to help overcome an in illness such as depression.

“I’m sure many of you have been to a fundraiser for cancer or heart disease where people are asked to raise their hand if they or a family member have been affected by this disease. Very rarely to people ask if anyone has been affected by mental illness because this is often a subject people shy away from and it it time we stop doing this,” he said.

The Mayor said it is time that we come together as a community to remove the stigma of mental illness.

“A day like this is so important to shine a light on this subject and we will make this initiative spread across the country,” said Conley.

Other individuals who attended this event were Madison resident Whitny Sobala, Co-Founder and Chief Optimist, UMEWE Public Benefit Corporation, Barb Short, Owner, Short Stories Bookshop & Community Hub, Diane Mann, CEO, Madison-Area YMCA, and Phil Murphy, NJ, Gubernatorial Candidate.