MADISON, NJ - Madison INTOyellow, a celebration of optimism and resilience, culminated on Saturday in a People’s Picnic at the new Madison Community Arts Center. Under a beautiful sky, Mayor Bob Conley, Council member John Hoover, and the team of INTOyellow organizers welcomed residents to enjoy food provided by Healthy Italia, water donated by Whole Foods Madison, and music by Jeff Ertz and Jason Biggs. Greeting the crowd was G. Riley Johndonnell (Uncle Riley), creator of the color INTOyellow, and Whitny Sobala, co-founder of Paint the Town Yellow in Madison.

INTOyellow is a movement to raise awareness of May as Mental Health Awareness month and to brighten communities through collaborative programming of art, education, fundraisers, and activations. The color “INTOyellow” is a color that was developed as a platform for participation by Johndonnell in collaboration with Pantone Color Institute.

The week-long movement began with “Pollination,” where 100 community members participated in a multi-generational, interfaith, collaborative public art project by creating and “planting” a community garden of hand-painted flowers; on the back of each flower is an idea of how to brighten the Borough. Other activities during the week-long INTOyellow are guided meditation, equine therapy, Qi Gong, yoga, developing mental skills for well-being, beginner salsa, demystifying mental health, resistance band training, holistic decluttering, clearing and quieting your mind, tai chi, increasing optimism, and being the boss of your own thoughts for children.

Sign Up for E-News

Co-founder Sobala explained that the impetus for the movement and the picnic is “to bring neighbors together who have not yet met to brighten the community and to create conversations.” Eric Hafen, the new Director of Arts and Events at the Community Arts Center, was delighted to host the event “as a celebration of mental health.” Christina Bossini, owner of Healthy Italia, is a member of the Mayor’s Wellness Campaign and donated a meal of risotto, salad, and breads to the participants. Gail Silver Schafran, a family coach in Morris County and a vice president of NAMI (National Alliance of Mental Illness), enjoyed the picnic. She had spoken at an earlier event entitled “Bring Light, Hope and Help to Families Searching for Mental Wellness.” Also present was Bianca Godoy, a Qi Gong leader who teaches at the Madison Area Y, the Madison Senior Center, and the Morristown Library, who had led exercises during the week.  

Sobala addressed the crowd and enthused that “we have turned our optimism into action.” She thanked the Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Development Commission, the Health Department, the Borough, and members of the INTOyellow committee. Mayor Conley told the assembled that “this has been a very meaningful week and should set the tone going forward.” He stated that if communities reach out to give support, perhaps the tragedies in the news might be prevented. He thanked Sobala and said that “every year this event gets better and better.”

Riley explained to the crowd the genesis of the INTOyellow concept. One gray day in Manhattan when he was a struggling artist, he asked the universe to give him a sign. He spotted a can of Sunshine carrots in a dilapidated garbage can. It was bright yellow. He later went to his studio and worked to match the color. He developed the color with Pantone and it is now officially “Optimism Yellow.” He explained that the movement has been hosted in about 1,000 communities. He praised Madison as a catalyst for this mental health movement.