ROSMY Unveil’s Youth Designed and Painted Mural
Editors Note: because of the sensitive and ethical nature of reporting on underaged sexual minority groups, names and photos of the ROSMY kids involved in the mural have been omitted until proper authorization has been given by the parents of the those involved. If you are one of the kids who helped paint the mural, please contact GayRVA – firstname.lastname@example.org – so we can get proper approval to put the photos up – thanks!
In what had to be one of the most beautiful evenings in weeks, about 150 people came out to show their support for the unveiling of a new mural at the Richmond ROSMY youth center.
“When the youth talk about ROSMY, they say this is a place were they feel safe, were they feel at home,” said Beth Panilaitis, Executive Director of ROSMY, as she addressed the eager crowd. “And now we no longer have a drab wall, we have a a visual depiction of what community really is.”
The Mural covers the entirety of the north-facing wall of the 2311 Westwood Avenue location. It was a collaboration between the ROSMY youth and the local art non-profit group Art 180. Though the entire project came together in a little over a month, the detail and final presentation of the mural shows great attention to detail, and lots and lots of love.
This is not the first project Art 180 has done with ROSMY, the two groups have worked together on numerous arts projects in the past. But this has by far been the largest endeavor for the two groups. Art 180′s Program Manager Betsy Kelly was on site at the opening and said the ongoing partnership between the two groups was a great example of the work Art 180 is trying to do.
“All our programs use the tools of art to encourage young people to express themselves and to encourage their personal development…” said Kelly, “LGBTQ youth face challenging circumstances, so we felt it was important to work with them… this mural is a prime example of these young people sharing their stories.”
Local artists Chris Milk Hulburt and Julie Elkins worked with the kids to help develop their ideas, and gave them guidance in the painting process. Both spoke briefly to explain the process the fun they had working with the youths.
“We worked a long time with the kids before we even had any kind of vision to put on the wall, and it was amazing working with ROSMY to foster a sense of trust and fun,” said Hulburt. “The idea that this would not be our mural, but it would be ROSMY’s mural really worked out.”
Artists Chris Milk Hulburt and Julie Elkins
Elkins spoke more to the early days of the project, working with the kids to make a mural that they could really call their own. “We worked to develop the mural to be about the values they had, and the came up with like 50 words – everybody went and picked their favorite words and the most popular word was love, and the runner-up was community.” said Elkins.
Some of the youth who helped paint the mural spoke as well. One girl said, though the heat was nearly unbearable, the energy behind the project lead to forging new friendships among the youth. “I found it to be a good bonding experience. Even the younger groups that I didn’t know much about, it was really cool bonding with them… It’s really good knowing that ROSMY can be represented in this way, rather than a blank, bland white wall that it was before. I think its great that it turned out like this – it represented ROSMY perfectly.”
A gender nonconforming youth spoke more about how important ROSMY had been in his life since he started coming to the center a few years ago. “You’d be surprised how many kids think about becoming a woman when they see a 90′s editorial with Kate Moss in it… or how many kids have an internal struggle when having to chose between the women and mens restroom.”
But jokes about cover models aside, he expressed how grateful he was that ROSMY was there to support him in his time of need. “ROSMY was able to provide me with that validation and that sense of community and support that helped me become a young man who is socially aware and I’m so grateful. This mural is a great way to show how amazing this community is.”
You can see the mural by driving north on Westwood Avenue near the intersection with Tomlynn street. (2311 Westwood Ave)
“Times and culture have shifted and the organization has expanded over the course of 25 years toward building communities with LGBTQ+ youth, families, schools, and faith communities.”September 12, 2016
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