Project founder Jodi Pope Johnson with The Muse. Photo by Nicole McPheeters


Like the ancient goddesses for which it is named, The Muse Project offers inspiration to those who heed its words. The project’s founder, Jodi Pope Johnson, says today, more than ever, she feels there is a need to share messages of hope and healing.

“We hear the news and we hear Trump and we don’t have a voice as loud as his,” Pope Johnson says. “There is no satisfying answer to that, and it was important to me to find one. I felt like I had to do something other than get really frustrated and feel powerless.”

Her response was The Muse Project, a community arts event in two parts. Part one involves community members using brightly colored markers, stamps, or other artistic means to convey messages of hope and love on small slips of paper. Those messages are screened, then carefully rolled into small capsules to be distributed via The Muse.

The Muse is part two of the project. It is an old-time gumball machine filled with the capsules and placed in public venues. For a quarter, passersby are offered the chance to be inspired.
Pope Johnson says she got the idea for The Muse Project eight years ago on a trip to North Carolina where she saw a gumball machine that distributed poetry.

“I just loved the aesthetic—that you took this iconic piece of Americana and pulled it into the arts realm,” she says. “I toyed with the idea of doing that, but I was never inspired enough to follow through. Then Trump came along and gave people permission to be racist. Then I was inspired.”

The Muse made its debut last summer at Bloomington Pridefest. It then spent a period of time at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater. Funds raised through the project are funneled back out to area activist organizations.

You can find information about messaging events and The Muse’s location on Facebook, on Instagram, or by visiting