Native youth visualize voices as paintings




By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

Well-known Native artist, Toma Villa, traveled to Tulalip and spent July 13 and 14 working with more than 80 summer youth workers on creating mural projects inside the Kenny Moses Building. Toma, who is a registered member of the Yakima Nation, has spent the last few years traveling to various reservations and inspiring Native youth to find their inner artist.

Toma uses Native American themes in the murals he paints. To date he has created 18 large-scale murals in four years that are “all up and down the Columbia River,” he says.

“In my mural workshops the youth work together to visualize their voices as paintings,” says Toma. “The best part of the workshops is watching the creative process play out and seeing how everyone interacts to take ownership over what they are creating. A big part of it is I like to tell them that you are people of the community, this is your home, and so it’s up to you to decide what goes up in your community. With these murals, it’s them putting out their ideas and their culture.”

The two-day crash-course painting workshop was the largest Toma has ever done. Usually he works with 10-15 youth at a time, but he was up to the challenge of working with the large group of 80 summer youth workers Tulalip had in store.




“It took a lot of work building and priming the walls to have enough space for 80 people to work with, but it was definitely worth the time and effort,” continues Toma. “So much good can come from the creating process and when you have young people working together amazing things can happen.”

Among the group of 80 were artists of all skill levels. With Toma helping with inspiration and guidance, every one of the youth were able to find their inner artist. There were teams of youth working on larger murals, while some preferred to showcase their solo talents with their stroke of the paintbrush.

The finished murals are in the process of being hung up around the Tulalip Youth Center for all to see.




“Absolutely amazing artwork took place with the Summer Youth program during their two days in the Kenny Moses Building working alongside Toma Villa. I loved seeing our youth so engaged and involved,” stated Theresa Sheldon, Board of Director, on Facebook. “If you have a youth in the Summer Youth program, you should be so proud of the amazing artwork they have created. Please give them a big hug and thank them for being so awesome! The Youth Services staff has been going above and beyond for them this summer. Next step is to put these master pieces up around our Youth Center. t’igʷicid to all who made this happen.”