Great masterpieces begin with a single stroke. This one, born of intense heat and profound boredom on an August day in southeast Wichita, started with chalk and a brick.
The Cassity kids had nothing to do Wednesday evening, so they started coloring bricks with chalk. They began with ones just to the right of their garage door. They liked how it looked — blocks of white, pink and yellow all bright in the sun — so they just kept going.
First thing Thursday the three girls — 9-year-old twins Katie and Amber Cassity and their 7-year-old sister, Jessica — grabbed sidewalk chalk and buckets of water and got to work again.
Two friends, Maleah Baldorf and Tatum White, left their televisions and joined the effort. They noticed that if they soaked chalk in water, the colors popped against the red bricks.
By midmorning one whole side of the garage was a checkerboard of pastel hues, like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. "Our 'Who' House," the girls called it.
It got neighbors' attention.
"They've just worked and worked on it, all day long," said Norma Gowen, 76. "I think it's beautiful."
A few neighbors donated money to the cause. The girls' mother, Shawn Cassity, went to buy more chalk.
Another neighbor brought over a ladder so the girls could reach the topmost bricks.
They kept going.
By Thursday afternoon the lazy-day pastime had become a mission. Maybe an obsession.
"It takes a long time," said 7-year-old Maleah, her face a rainbow of pastel sweat. "And it's really hot."
So why keep at it?
"We want to get it done," Amber said. "We want to see how it looks when it's all finished."
Shawn Cassity made the girls take water breaks and a longer one for lunch. The rest of the time she just checked their progress and encouraged their creativity.
"It's sure kept them busy," she said. "When people started giving them tips and bringing ladders, I couldn't believe it. It's kind of funny, the way they just took off."
Gowen, the neighbor, praised the effort. By late Thursday, the girls had chalked two sides of the garage.
"I love when children find ways to entertain themselves that's not all TV and video games," she said. "More kids should do this."
"Artists at work," added her husband, Bill, who watched the project from a chair on his porch. "I like it."
The girls decided Thursday to donate cash contributions to a hospital.
"Kids who are in the hospital or having chemo don't get to do anything or have fun outside," Amber said. "If people like our Who House and give us tips, we'll donate it to charities."
Shawn Cassity praised her girls' creativity, persistence and generosity. That's how things get done, she told them. And sometimes that's how great things happen.
Brick by brick.