Susan Bagrationoff, art studio owner and art educator, and Will Haggerty, OKAY! coordinator for Kent Youth & Family Services, guided the youth’s public art project. MARK KLAAS, Kent Reporter

Susan Bagrationoff, art studio owner and art educator, and Will Haggerty, OKAY! coordinator for Kent Youth & Family Services, guided the youth’s public art project. MARK KLAAS, Kent Reporter

Open group colors open canvas with message of hope, understanding

Young artists from OKAY! support group paint public mural with help from grant, educator

Brushed in bright colors from the hands of young artists, the mythological figures appear powerful and beautiful, majestic and mysterious, unusual and even strange.

Fairies, a centaur, an alicorn and a griffin – different in shape and personality – follow a common path, a journey from darkness to light, from hurt to healing, from depths to great heights. The figures are us. Their journey is us.

Such is how Will Haggerty described a mural, a public art project inspired, designed and created by OKAY! (Outreach for Kent Area Youth) – a Kent Youth & Family Services program that provides an open support group for kids 13-19 who identify as LGBTQ+.

“You’ll recognize the colors as the colors of the rainbow – universally a symbol of hope and pride. Their hope is ours,” Haggerty, OKAY! coordinator, told a group of supporters at the mural’s unveiling Thursday night, Nov. 1 at the KYFS office.

The 4-by-8-foot canvas mural was made possible through a $1,000 grant from the city of Kent Arts Commission and the professional guidance of Susan Bagrationoff, owner and educator of Artsy Fartsy Art Lessons in downtown Kent.

Bagrationoff, with adult help, collaborated with a group of seven young artists on the project that took about 2½ months to complete. The children came up with the concept, subject and message.

The mural – OKAY!’s first work to be shared publicly – will grace a wall inside KYFS for all to see.

“It’s truly magical,” Bagrationoff said of the acrylic painting, “and it definitely comes from the heart. They definitely thought this one out. … Everyone was diligent in getting the project done.”

Bagrationoff provided her studio and supplies to make the piece possible. She taught the class different brushstrokes, how to mix colors and other skills.

“We found that there are different ways to use a brush,” said one of the artists.

The mural was warmly received.

“This is awesome. You guys are incredible,” Mayor Dana Ralph told the young artists. “The message is awesome.”

The mural represents original art from original OKAY! members for others to see and appreciate, Mike Heinisch, KYFS executive director, pointed out.

“We’re proud to represent every child in the community,” he said.

OKAY! is about to celebrate six months since its first group took root. The program offers LGBTQ+ youth an experience they may otherwise not have access to.

The mural is just one the group’s many efforts in the community.

“We believe that its message is universal and will appeal to all the youth of KYFS, the Kent community and anyone who sees it,” Haggerty said.

Susan Bagrationoff, art studio owner and art educator, left, and Will Haggerty, OKAY! coordinator for Kent Youth Family Services, unveil a mural painted by young artists at the KYFS office during a reception Nov. 1. MARK KLAAS, Kent Reporter

Susan Bagrationoff, art studio owner and art educator, left, and Will Haggerty, OKAY! coordinator for Kent Youth Family Services, unveil a mural painted by young artists at the KYFS office during a reception Nov. 1. MARK KLAAS, Kent Reporter

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