KINGMAN - The Mohave County Coalition Youth Team artists introduced their interpretation of what Sarah's House means in an unveiling ceremony of their mural Tuesday night.
The mural, consisting of six panels, each done by a different team member, was named "For Sarah," and represented aspects the artists thought Sarah's House was all about.
"For those who are not familiar with the Mohave County COYOTE Youth Program, the coalition consists of public and private partners who have joined forces and funds to create opportunities for our youth to develop a clear pathway to becoming productive workers and outstanding citizens," said Jen Miles, Mohave County Workforce Development manager.
Las Vegas artist Mark Melnick, Art Assistant Nicole Izaguirre, and COYOTE Team members Aaron O'Sullivan, Kendall Slack, Tiffany Gottschall and Wesley Dunn, explained Tuesday what the mural meant. Kenzie Allison also contributed to the project, but was unable to attend the event.
The first image on the left, a large, three-dimensional apple painted by Dunn, represents the needs for "knowledge, health and food," he said.
Two images made up O'Sullivan's panel, a butterfly and a key, "each representing different aspects," he said. "The butterfly is a representation of freedom, delicacy and metamorphosis as people change their lives. The key depicts shelter, home and security, which Sarah's House helps to give families in need."
The panel Izaguirre painted, illustrating four children playing in a swimming pool, "represents enjoying time with friends. It is representative of having healthy relationships with friends, having fun and is symbolic of the joy children experience, which is something Sarah's House is trying to improve and help in the lives of children and families."
Gottschall said her painting of sunflowers against a blue sky represented beauty, growth and femininity.
The picture of the mother and child were painted by the absent Allison, however, the Picasso-inspired painting suits Sarah's House with the celebration of the closeness of mother and daughter, Melnick said.
The final panel illustrates a cat sitting on a windowsill next to a cactus, gazing out over a couple walking along a wooded path into the sunset.
"The cactus represents security and desert growth. The cat shows domestic warmth; something by your side when it gets dark at night. The path represents life. The couple represents having someone there. The sunrise is a new beginning; light after dark; a whole new start on life," Slack, the panel's painter, said.
Bill Ekstrom, chairman of the board for Sarah's House said, "I am inspired by their work. It's our home. It's your home. It's the home of these young people who did such a great job. You hear things about children during the summer. 'What are they doing?' This is what kids do in the summer in Kingman."
Ekstrom said he found the piece moving; he said there was a lot that was beneath the surface that really related to the goals and principles of Sarah's House.
However, the mural did start off a little shaky. Miles said they first approached Sarah's House about doing a mural and were asked to submit a written request to the board. The board accepted the written request and approved the project without issue.
However, because of when Melnick arrived in Kingman, they didn't really have the concept drawings until right before work started, Miles said. When the team began to white wash the brick wall and paint the initial layers of color, some board members felt they should see a concept drawing of what was planned.
Miles and Melnick presented the concept drawing to Ekstrom and a couple of the board members. Since time was of the essence, the decision was made to let Ekstrom have the final say. The team continued their work after Ekstrom approved it.
While some initially expressed concerns that the whole board should have approved it, Ekstrom said that he has heard no negative comments about the end product.
In fact, several board members have expressed their appreciation of the mural.
"I think it was, in my mind, a great gesture in regards to having kids create something over the summer and dedicate it to kids who are in need in the community" Kingman Police Department Chief Robert DeVries said. "I thought it was very appropriate."
Each one of the panels can directly relate to the focus of Sarah's House, he said.
Board member Gary Christopher said he thought the painters did a great job on the mural. It dresses up the wall, he said, and he appreciates what they did.
Sheriff Tom Sheehan, also a board member, said, "I thought it was outstanding. I congratulate our young people in the COYOTE program for doing it. There was tremendous talent, and they are certainly a credit to our community."
No board members were willing to discuss initial concerns or if they had any. Many who spoke with the Miner felt the concerns had been put to rest with the end product.
Sarah's House Director Sheila King declined to discuss the mural with the Miner and hung up when questioned.
The mural can be seen on the outside brick wall of Sarah's House facing Wal-Mart. Sarah's House is located along Airway Avenue.