‘I Rise Above’ youth mural unveiled

Southern Ute Tribal Councilmember, Linda Baker greets the Sunshine Cloud Smith Youth Advisory Council at the unveiling of the “Healthy Minds, Healthy Choices, Healthy Utes” mural at the Southern Ute Behavioral Health Building on Thursday, June 24.
Precious Collins, the Native Connections Coordinator for the Southern Ute Behavioral Health Division welcomes community members, tribal leaders and youth to the unveiling of the Rise Above Colorado mural initiative that celebrates youth resilience in Southwest Colorado.
Jr. Miss Southern Ute, Autumn Sage shares her gratitude and appreciation to the departments and youth who were involved in completing the mural that is currently housed in the Southern Ute Behavioral Health Division.
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum

In partnership with San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) and Rise Above Colorado the Southern Ute Behavioral Health Division is now featuring a new “Ute Resilience”  mural in their building. The “Ute Resilience” youth art mural was unveiled at the Southern Ute Behavioral Health Building in Durango, Colo. on Thursday, June 24. The event was limited to the first 50 people and masks were required. This mural was part of a new five-county art campaign that started in Pagosa Springs, Colo. and is aimed at empowering teens to lead a drug-free lifestyle, it will also educate adults on teen drug use.   

For more than a decade now, Rise Above Colorado has helped communities build connections through public art projects. Each project is driven by youth. Over 20 communities so far have showcased Colorado young people’s strength and resilience through chosen themes that they have identified in their hometowns. Rise Above’s team alongside other public health leaders in Southwest Colorado are helping these visions come to fruition.  

“It’s an honor to present this mural to you all and to the community— the youth played a big part in this project,” Native Connections Coordinator, Precious Collins shared. “We wanted this mural to highlight what resilience means to the youth, to understand what they were thinking, and what was helping them through this pandemic.” 

During the planning stages of the mural design, the Sunshine Cloud Smith Youth Advisory Council was asked to help. Together they decided to honor their elders, that is exactly what the mural depicts. An older person connecting with a young one, sharing knowledge, strength and wisdom. 

 “See this image and think about the youth and this year and how strong they came through it because this is a mark to their success; a mark to say we made it through this pandemic, we made it through social distancing— we made it through all of it,” expressed Collins.  

The mural was funded by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s (CDPHE) Office of Public Health Practice, Planning and Local Partnerships. It is the first initiative of its kind to involve teens from Southwest Colorado.  By working with public health departments and local partners to paint these murals, the initiative connects to a theme of “resilience” and uses the #IRiseAbove hashtag to celebrate all the positive and healthy choices Colorado youth are making. This work directly coincides with Rise Above Colorado’s “Fill your world with good” campaign. Both campaigns are researching teen drug use in Colorado, but are also highlighting the fact that most teens aren’t choosing drugs — but are instead embracing art and participating in community building projects.  

“You young ones might be parents one day, so I hope that this [mural] is still here for your little ones— always remember that healthy minds and choices are created by us and that we can create good for our families,” Collins said.  

COVID-19 not only impacted families and communities, but it took a toll on the youth. School closures and social distancing kept the young people from developing friendships and being active, last year was hard for everyone, but together communities can rise above again. Painting these murals not only highlights the positive characteristics of resilience but it gives local teens an opportunity to express themselves through art. The content and themes that are depicted in the murals come directly from local youth who have been active participants in the art and painting process. 

To learn more about Rise Above Colorado

Please visit https://www.riseaboveco.org/. Rise Above Colorado will be releasing more details about the unveiling of the murals and its “Fill Your World with Good” campaign as additional community events are announced on social media platforms. 


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