Mural promotes ‘unity in the community’

Kelsie Thurrott wanted to promote unity with a mural on the gate leading to Rory’s Custom Fabrication, a business she owns with her husband.

Not only does the mural promote unity, the project itself promoted unity even during COVID-19 isolation as dozens of mask-wearing, social distancing people helped paint it.

Thurrott got inspired to do something positive because of all the negativity about the coronavirus, politics and the state of the world. She wanted to get kids involved, too.

But she didn’t know how to do it. “I’m not in the art world at all,” she said.

So she did what everyone does now to find out information – she turned to Facebook. She posted on the Bainbridge Islander Facebook page that she was looking for community advice on how to accomplish her project. She really needed an artist to guide it.

Enter Erik Gonzales, who just moved to Kitsap County from Central California. “He took it under his wing,” Thurrott said.

He brought with him a nonprofit called Urbanist Collective, which started in 2012. Its website says it is committed to serving community through art and public engagement. Locally, it is already connected to the Kitsap Community Foundation and received funds from Kitsap Great Give to bring DSGN Co-Creative Studio to life.

Gonzales received a Unity in Community Foundation grant, and the project got started in earnest. He worked with some local youth artists to come up with the design. Gonzales traced out the design, and each youngster painted a certain part of the mural. He taught them as they worked with the spray paint. “It was almost like paint by numbers,” Thurrott said.

As the community drove by and saw what was going on, it wanted to get involved, too. Thurrott said her Facebook blast really worked as people came from all over. She said probably 100 people over two days added a bit of color to the mural, which shows four arms and hands grasping each other with different skin colors. The words say, “One Love.”

“It turned into a wonderful project,” Thurrott said, adding there was excitement because Joe Biden had just become president. “There was energy in the air that weekend.”

She said neighbors stopped to help. “When they drive by they can say, ‘I helped with that,’” Thurrott said, adding kids as young as 2 from her neighborhood took part. “Spray paint is incredibly forgiving,” she added.

She said people painted for about 10 hours each day. It got cold so they put a fire pit out there.

She said Gonzales came back a few weeks later to add detail like shading to make the mural really pop.

Thurrott said she hopes others get involved with Gonzales.

“COVID put a damper on their presence up here,” she said of Urbanist Collective. “They’re not as prominent as they had hoped.”

She certainly was impressed with the mural at 4710 Eagle Harbor Drive, near the Japanese American Exclusion Memorial.

“It really brought the community together,” she said. “It’s a great message of unity in the community.”