KEEP TRYING | Michael Kennedy and Vania Hardy

Singer-Songwriter Michael Kennedy and illustrator Vania Hardy brought their talents together in the making of “Keep Trying” - a delightful declaration of resilience after being knocked down. The song’s cheerful and catchy tune paired with Vania’s whimsical illustrations speak to the hope that is found in the hardships of life’s journey. No matter what we might face or experience, there’s always a reason to sing, and there’s always beauty to be found.

Both Micheal and Vania reflect on '“Keep Trying” below. You can stream or download “Keep Trying” here.

Vania Hardy, Illustrator:

”So many visual elements in the “Keep Trying” video are intentional. The story begins in the darkness before dawn. Further into the journey, the setting gets brighter and more hopeful.

Verse 2 is the turning point (“All the places I went wrong…”). We look up from the turtle and see the bigger context of where he is, and the beauty and purpose he’s surrounded by. The plants are based on real trees that grow in Hawaii—kauila and ‘ohia trees. The kauila tree was named after a mythical Hawaiian turtle and has leaves that are thought to look like turtle shells. The ‘ohia tree, which grows bright red flowers, is one of the first plants to grow out of the new land that settles from a volcano eruption, so it’s a symbol of new life springing from death. The verse ends on a shot of a volcano in front of a sun-lit sky.

After the second chorus, we dive right into the ocean. This shows us what the turtle is crawling towards but hasn’t seen yet—vibrant beauty and the start of a brand new adventure! And sure enough, in the end, the turtle does end up making it to the ocean.

I’m originally from Hawaii and was even a hula dancer. My childhood was filled with cultural stories and legends. When you’re a dancer, you learn a lot of the traditional songs, many of which are about nature symbolism. Turtles have always been my favorite cultural icon, as they symbolize endurance, wisdom, and finding your way home. After 35 years of wandering around the ocean, female turtles always come back to the beach they were born on to lay their own eggs. The journey they take as hatchlings, of getting to the ocean, gets their bodies so imprinted on the unique magnetic field of their natal beach that they know exactly where to come home. 

I saw the true significance of that journey as I was illustrating the video. It’s where the turtle’s identity is formed, where it’s prepared for the perils and adventures of the wider ocean—its “promised land.” This project found me in a healing process from a rough season, looking back and seeing the purpose in the pain. Working on this was such a great outward expression of that healing, and a way to encourage others!

Michael Kennedy, Singer/Songwriter:

Two years ago it seemed like almost all the plans I had made for myself crashed down around me. I had just lost the most important relationship in my life, and beyond that I felt like nothing I was trying to accomplish at that moment was getting anywhere.

It was in the middle of the deepest point of my confusion when I wrote this song, as a way of grabbing on to hope even when I couldn’t see it. I couldn’t see evidence that God was doing something at the time but I wrote this line out anyway, because I knew that It had to be true:

“The mess I’ve made is all being restored,
turns out it turned into an open door,
and I’m expecting something.”

Several months later I entered the song into a national songwriting competition and I ended up being one of the winners.

“Keep Trying” is the first song from my new EP, ‘Here on Out’ and it represents a sort of beginning place of a journey from brokenness to restoration.



Vania is an artist and illustrator from Elizabethtown, Pa. Her art comes from the patchwork of her identity–from the various places she’s lived, the cultures that have shaped her, to the communities that have influenced her, and the faith that’s been her lifeline. She’s often inspired by stories and whimsy.

Being a third culture kid, Vania is fascinated by unexpected juxtapositions that create unlikely connections. She expresses that with splashes of contrasting colors, along with a balance of structured lines and spontaneous strokes. Without always trying, she tends to explore themes of home, identity, community, and legacy.



Michael Kennedy is a songwriter who uses his personal struggles and life experiences as inspiration to write songs of hope and encouragement. His goal is to help people come alive and discover their purpose, using music as a spark for them to begin thinking differently. The power that music has to create a different atmosphere where new things are suddenly possible is something Michael tries to utilize in the writing and production process. Michael currently works as a server, lives in Elizabethtown, and spends his free time writing or finding other ways to be creative.



A semi-truck jackknifed and ran over my car. That moment - encapsulated by metal, glass, and pavement, suspended between the earth and the sky, became the catalyst for the work that engulfs me. My work is preoccupied with the essence of human transversion. I investigate physical, social, psychological and theological constructs of our human existence as we navigate a world in flux. The psychology and physiology of regeneration (resilience) in tandem with cacophonic environments interest me. 

The work rests in duality as I ponder what is and the possibilities of becoming. I stage environments suspended and void of time. For me adversities are human connecting points. I see my process as acts of intercession and networks of human connectivity. The work catalyzes hope and promotes empathy, endurance, and peace through experiential expression. 

In this selected body of work some of the adversities abstracted include: natural disaster, medical diagnoses, auto accident, relationships, loss, trauma, and pain.

Hart’s current series invites prayers and thanksgivings from friends and strangers. These abstract works painted with natural matter are influenced directly from text and imagery taken from personal, social media, and other outlets. Some works are time-stamped with specific notes to persons encountered trauma or adversity. The first works of this series was exhibited in a group show “Escapeism” in early 2019 at Atlantic Gallery in NYC’s Chelsea art district. A body of this work is currently on view in Durham, NC at her recent solo show “Pieces: A Paradoxy.” Hart’s painting processes are acts of intercession and a bridge for human connectivity, catalyzing hope in individual and shared adversities.

Hart, Krystal. “‘Live in the Already’ He Used to Say. 2338 hr.”

Hart, Krystal. “Though Mangled She Mingles.”

Hart, Krystal. “4:10pm Dawn from Death.”

Hart, Krystal. “Heartstring.”


Krystal Hart is a North Carolina native. Hart received her BFA from New York Institute of Technology and is a distinguished recipient of various honors and residencies, including a 2007 Chair Person Fine Arts Award, a 2009 and 2012 Limner Society Residency, a 2011 and 2017 NC Regional Artist Grant, and the 2018 Mass MoCA Masters of Abstraction Workshop in Residency. Hart has a passion for serving her local and global community. Her work often provides a platform for cross-culture and cross-community experiences of a shared human condition. Her aim at shifting perspectives towards restorative and regenerative communities motivates some of her noted exhibition participation.

SYMPTOMS OF GRIEF | Sallie McCann Tupper


grief appears in the body
as much as in the spirit.
first a patient may notice
the heart and stomach 
sag with the condensate
of accumulated exhaustion,
fear, and sadness.

at critical mass,
it starts to drip drop into the lungs,
wherefore the torso spasms, spurting them upward,
out of the fountain of one’s eyes,

and this is how grief exits the body.

a patient may notice that while
one round of distilling and purging
is constructive, even cleansing,
it can take many rinses until
the water runs clear.
a patient wishing for total healing
should expect to rinse and repeat,
rinse and repeat,
rinse and repeat;
as many times as necessary.



Sallie McCann Tupper and her husband enjoy living in Lancaster City with a community of friends. You can find Sallie spending time outside in her garden or in the woods, observing neighborhood animals, organizing her whole house, or cooking delicious food. She reads and writes fervently, and finds it almost impossible to read a good book without underlining and dog-earing the best parts. She writes poems to underline and dog-ear the small and sacred moments of life. Find more of her work on Instagram — @sallie_mccanntupper.