Van Go artists unveiled “The Art of Listening,” a new mural that graces the front of Kansas Suicide Prevention Headquarters, in front of a crowd of eager spectators Wednesday evening.
The group of Van Go artists, who are part of the youth-based arts organization’s Arts Train program, collaborated with KSPHQ President and CEO Steve Devore to visually convey the organization’s mission: providing lifesaving services by lending a shoulder and ear to those in need.
KSPHQ, housed at 2110 Delaware St. in Lawrence, is the parent organization of the Headquarters Counseling Center and the Kansas Suicide Prevention Resource Center. These programs work together to provide 24-hour crisis intervention services as well as provide education and resources to communities.
“When we moved into this building back in 2019, we were trying to come up with a way that we could make the outside of this building look as inviting, inspiring and welcoming as you will find when you go through the doors,” Devore said. “I want to thank each one of the artists here tonight for the role that you played in absolutely making a difference in the lives of others.”
The artists, all aged 18-24, spent 19 weeks designing and executing the mural. Van Go’s year-round Arts Train program aims to provide underserved youth employment opportunities by working on commissioned pieces like “The Art of Listening.”
But Inca Amen, one of the artists, said the program doesn’t feel like a job.
Amen, who started working with Van Go in September, said she felt lost after graduating from high school. There’s no clear path to becoming an artist, and Amen felt anxious and depressed while trying to navigate adulthood, she said. Van Go taught her how to collaborate with other artists.
In addition to providing paid, on-site job training, the Arts Train matches artists with community-based internships at the conclusion of the program. Participants walk away with real-world experience and move one step closer to financial independence.
“I honestly never thought going into this job that I would come out with an entire team of support and a family like I never knew I could have outside of my own,” Amen said. “I know people who leave here often say it doesn’t feel like a job. And they’re 100% right. It’s genuinely not a job. It’s a home; a resting place for souls still trying to find their way through the maze of this world.”
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Chloe Anderson (she/her) contributed to The Lawrence Times from August 2022 through May 2023. She is also published in Climbing magazine, Kansas Reflector and Sharp End Publishing. As a recent graduate of the University of Kansas, Chloe plans to continue her career in photography, rock climbing and writing somewhere out West.
You can view her portfolio, articles and commissioned work here. Check out more of her work for the Times here.