Black Lives Matter Mural finds New Home at the Y

Last updated: March 22, 2023, at 4:58 a.m. PT

Originally published: October 15, 2020, at 1:03 p.m. PT


In order to achieve our mission of empowering all people, especially the young to reach their fullest potential, the Y must become an anti-racist organization. On October 1, 2020, our organization took a pledge to formalize the commitment to educating ourselves, having hard conversations, reducing barriers, supporting staff, and unleashing potential for all. 

Serendipitously, around the same time we took this pledge, a local artist and designer, Mia Pizzuto, reached out to us about relocating a Black Lives Matter mural from its original installment location to our Bellevue branch. Here’s what she said about the mural, its history, and the meaning behind it.

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Artist Mia Pizzuto and Bellevue Y Membership Director Tyriff Rudder with the Black Lives Matter Mural

“As a local artist and designer, I truly believe that art is a powerful tool for us to use our voice in a positive way and inspire others to do the same, especially in a time of crisis. With the help of my family, we created this mural with love. We felt compelled to do something and use our creativity for good, and painting the 'Black Lives Matter' message was the very least we could do. We believe this is an important message and critical reminder that we can all benefit from seeing.
For the design, I was originally inspired by the expansive Black Lives Matter street mural in the capitol hill neighborhood of Seattle. BIPOC artists came together under the name Vivid Matter Collective to paint this impressive mural. Each artist painted a letter in their own unique style. Together, I see all the letters as a collection and celebration, giving so much meaning and richness to the message. I was very intrigued by the idea of a group mural, so I enlisted my mom, sister, two nieces, and nephew to join me in creating our own version.
The Sur La Table in downtown Kirkland was boarded up at the time, along with a few other businesses in the area. I saw their storefront as the perfect 'canvas' for our mural, as the store is in a very high visibility location, so I reached out to them directly to inquire. I spoke with the CMO of the company, and she was in full support of my vision. We were thrilled! So we all began painting together in the rain that very day. It took two full days to complete. The mural stayed up for a few weeks until the store reopened, and then it moved to it's second location in the Kirkland Marina for the remainder of summer.
While the mural was well-received by most, several people were vocally against it. The mural was even vandalized at one point, but swiftly repainted by local activist and community member, Nikayla Rice. We are so thankful that she stepped in and helped us repair the damage, and even more grateful to have met Nikayla during this journey. We continue to learn and be inspired by her efforts.
It was time to find the mural a new home. After researching potential places, I wanted to make a thoughtful decision and was very impressed with the YMCA and what they stand for. I reached out to Executive Director, Heather Siegel-Sawma, and she responded right away. After a very heartfelt conversation, I knew the mural was going to be in good hands. I truly admire Heather and her team for their activism, and all the great work they are doing for the community.

On behalf of my family, we are thrilled to donate our hand-painted mural to the YMCA. We admire the Y's stance for Black Lives Matter, and that they truly value humanity and social justice. Their commitment to change by standing up against racial injustice and inequality is beyond inspiring. We support their mission and vision, and couldn’t be happier knowing that our mural has found a new, permanent home in the YMCA.

I realize that there is so much more to be done, and one mural can not solve the larger problem, but it can at least start the conversation and engage the community. Before I considered this project, I remember reading a quote that stated "Use what you have to fight the good fight." And I asked myself, what do I have to offer? What can I do? How can I help? I have art...and art is my weapon of choice. There are countless ways to contribute to our community, and now is the time to use our gifts for good.

A big thank you to Heather and the YMCA family! ”

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For more information about our commitment to equity and justice, please visit our Equity and Justice Center of Excellence.