It has been a year since a tornado hit the small city of Joplin in the state of Missouri in the US and its residents are still picking up bits and pieces of their lives, as they lurch to recovery.

As part of the whole rebuilding and healing process, resident artists have started a project - to paint a 30-40ft tall tornado-struck tree called - spirit tree. The idea is to motivate the city to continue working for a better future.

The artists claim the design was inspired by a Native American spirit stick art project, in the south-western American state, by an Ashley Bilke, who had also worked on a similar project two years ago at the Joplin High School.

"The Native Americans believe that the spirit sticks their medicine men carry, also called prayer sticks, were especially powerful if chosen from a tree that was struck by lightning," Bilke told The Joplin Globe, "I feel like that's applicable here, considering the tornado and the storm, which was part of the reason we chose a tree in the middle of the path."

The tree is coloured in bright shades and symbolises the new spirit of the community. Each colour represents different things - white is spirit, red is life, yellow is knowledge, black is clarity, blue is prayer, purple is healing and orange is kinship with other living creatures. The tree is a tribute to the 161 people who lost their lives in the calamity and to honour the ones who lived up the situation and the volunteers who came to help Joplin recover.

The deadly EF-5 tornado which hit the town a year ago ranks as the deadliest twister in six decades and reportedly has been the costliest since 1950. However, the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce reports that 80 percent of businesses have reopened and the city of Joplin has issued building permits for about 65 percent of the houses and apartments.

"We're expecting to come back bigger and stronger than we were before the storm," Mark Rohr, City Manager was quoted as saying in USA today, "...We have a tragedy on one hand and an opportunity on the other hand."

Check out photos of the city of Joplin, a year after the horrible tornado