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Art project adds a new face to Shawnee

By Vicky O. Misa | | (405) 214-3962 | Twitter: @Vicky_NewsStar
The Shawnee News-Star

A statuesque lady now towers over drivers along Kickapoo Street — one of the latest additions to Shawnee's ever-growing building-art exhibit.

Over the past several days splashes of color and curvy black lines have been making their way onto a 20-foot by 16-foot space on the north wall of a metal-sided business at 1725 N. Kickapoo.

This mural, like several others in town, has been created as a way to showcase local talent and bring art into the community.

OU student and artist Gentry Leach said she met Wystle owner Rachael Melot through a mutual friend and was asked about doing the mural a couple of months ago.

Leach said her busy schedule kept her from committing to the project right away, but eventually she reached back out to Melot and the project was back on.

“Rachael and I discussed her mission, which is empowering women in business,” Leach said. “So I wanted to cultivate imagery that reflects a sense of unapologetic empowerment.”

The challenge pushed the artist well outside of her comfort zone. Leach said the art piece is a concept of her own personal style of mixing representation and abstraction with color.

“This is the largest piece of art I have ever created,” she said. “This piece was sort of a personal revolution for me, a chance to finally get over the ‘imposter syndrome’ that has plagued me for years — despite my successes.”

She said she can’t believe she did it, but at the same time is reminding herself she is 100 percent capable of anything she sets her mind to.

“I’m finally getting over the toxic, limiting beliefs that stand in the way of my highest potential,” she said. “We all know by now that growth is not linear; it’s all about the subtle victories along the journey.”

She said it was an intimidating project for her because it was large-scale and on corrugated metal, as opposed to a flat surface.

“But I didn’t let that limit my creativity and overall vision for the piece,” she said.

In just more than a week, through some 100-degree, 8-hour work days, the project was complete.

“Along the journey, I fell in love with the echoes public art has on community,” she said. “Hundreds of people from all walks of life stopped by to give thanks, kind words of affirmation and support.”

From an 85-year-old woman, to a little boy who rode by on his scooter every day and finally got the courage to say something, they showered Leach with utmost kindness, she said.

The experience prompted Leach to fall in love with her craft all over again, she said.

“Inspiring art brings hope to the community and is so important in the complex world we live in today,” she said. “I especially loved this project because (of) the lovely owner of this boutique; Rachael’s mission is to empower women in business, which is crucial in our patriarchy-dominated, unjust business culture.”

This is why the imagery is radiating a sense of unapologetic empowerment, she explained.

Leach said she is thankful for the opportunity.

“If I learned anything from this experience, it’s to take big, bold chances and you might just impress yourself with the results, all while bringing color, creativity, love, hope and inspiration to your fellow humans,” she said. “Stop letting comparison, fear, anxiety and discomfort steal from your success.”