Hope Springs Eternal with Jack Millard and His ‘Little Boats of Hope’
At some point in everybody’s life, we’ve all wanted to find a message in a bottle. It signifies hope, determination and beating the odds. Actor, producer, and artist Jack Millard has taken his personal grief and created a way to inspire others with a message that is as touching as it is universal.
On January 1, 2013 Millard’s wife was tragically killed by a drunk driver while she was in the process of bravely battling Stage 4 breast cancer. Since those days, Millard has forged through a sea of grief and poured his efforts into a positive and creative artistic outlet that brings a positive and beautiful message to all that encounter his “Little Boats of Hope.”
“When my wife passed away, there was a realization that for the first time, I was entirely alone now after a 20-year relationship,” explains Millard. “Of course, it was a whirlwind of emotions.” After some time grieving and getting a handle on life without his beloved, a new course gradually presented itself.
He drew on his creativity. “In my own sort of spiritual and emotional survival, I knew I needed to create in a time of loss,” says Millard. “I was taking a walk here in Scottsdale and there’s a particular tree that has a tree pod that grows in clusters. As I was looking down, I saw one of these tree pods that had fallen after one of our storms. I picked it up and in my imagination, I thought, ‘These look like little fairy boats.’” Inspiration struck and he started by making just a few boats. Since 2013, he estimates he has created several thousand.
Millard did an installation on New Year’s Day 2017 in remembrance of his wife, Hilary Six, who grew up in Phoenix and Scottsdale, and went to Camelback High School. “New Year’s Eve is always one of great reflection. Universally it’s the time where we take stock of our lives, which often can bring up feelings of loss and regret. That is especially true for those who have lost someone dear to them,” he explains. “For me, it's all the more poignant since my wife died on New Year’s Day.”
Millard also recently met Ken Ross, who is the son of Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. Ken is the founder and vice president of her foundation and together, they are now in the process of developing an installation at the Valley’s own Ryan House, a pediatric palliative and hospice care facility that also provides life-enhancing activities and end-of-life care. There are plan for many more installations in the Phoenix and Scottsdale area.
‘Little Boats of Hope – A Voyage Through Grief’
Initially, Millard set out to do all of this anonymously, but then realized people may want to know his story and the importance of the boats. He also saw the value in creating a series of short films to document the reactions people had as they found the boats, and the journeys of the boats themselves. The resulting films are poignant and show how through giving hope, Millard is receiving hope, too. He states, “When you get wounded with loss, like I have, you become aware of how many other people are hurting; not just from the loss of a loved one, but it can be from anything- the loss of a job, the death of a dream.”
Prior to the films being made, Millard put six of his boats at the ocean. The ocean and beach were entirely unforgiving and swallowed up those initial boats. “I hadn’t thought about that. I wanted to witness people’s reaction,” he notes. “Those boats represented something of my loss. I realized there was something more to that and for that first movie, I left 1095 boats, to mark every day that my wife was gone.” He has since gone on to create three of the short films, the latest of which will be given a special screening at the Chandler International Film Festival on January 13. The film gives a beautiful glimpse into what happens when people in a public place find Millard’s Little Boats of Hope.
“I linked my little boats to the movies I made – the first one I made that commemorated my wife’s passing,” Millard says. The first film was shot in Malibu.
In another artistic endeavor to honor his wife, Millard also has begun creating a line of jewelry made of crafted nails that incorporate items including signs of piece, tiny musical instruments and coins. In keeping himself busy and his hands active, he continues to direct his purpose and slowly relinquish mere amounts of grief.
Millard is very touched by those battling cancer. He also explains that he and his wife Hilary never had children, but they both had a very soft spot for kids.
“These boats are so tiny, but there is a message within even how small and fragile they are,” says the artist. “Just a little bit of hope could be the difference or start a momentum in someone’s spirit where they find that defiance to get through their day or through that moment.”
For additional information on “Little Boats of Hope” visit on Instagram at @voicesthroughart or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Little-Boats-Of-Hope-548514135356894/?fref=ts. For additional inquiries, email [email protected].