Back in 2016, Free Arts ran two Professional Artist Series with teens at a residential treatment center in Phoenix, one of our longtime partner agencies. Teaching artist Linda Pullinsi led a series called “Trees Like Me” where each of the seven participants painted a canvas with a tree and other words or objects that represented their identities. Kris Kollasch, another Free Arts teaching artist, came in after that series to help the teens turn their paintings into a collaborative mural called “True Colors.” This mural was comprised of five large panels and weaved together each individual creation or concept into one cohesive and connected piece. The description of “True Colors states, “ It represents and expressed the teens’ journey from pain and hurt, through hope, into a future that is wonderful and bright. “
These panels were installed on the side of Flo’s on 7th, Florence Crittenton’s thrift store in downtown Phoenix. Although the thrift store closed in 2020, Kris kept a watchful eye on the mural to ensure that it could be protected and preserved. Logistical challenges in the past couple of years delayed the project, but Kris remained persistent in advocating for preserving this piece of Free Arts history and culture.
Kris and her assistant, Sarah Roth (another Free Arts teaching artist), removed the panels in December 2022, then went through the process of cleaning and refurbishing them. They also recreated one panel that had been lost to a storm.
The mural will now be re-installed in a new location (to be announced shortly), where it will continue to tell a story and be enjoyed by others.
Due to the passionate commitment of our longtime teaching artists, we are reminded again that art, too, can be resilient – and that it is important to protect the creativity of Free Arts participants, preserving their work, their stories, and our history.