<b>FRIENDS & NEIGHBORS | </b>By Katya Yefimova Herald writer
EDMONDS — Dustin Whaley faced a blank slate, deciding what he wanted to make of it.
In less than five hours, the 4-by-20-foot vinyl banner was transformed into a kaleidoscope of red, blue, yellow and green balloons.
Whaley, 17, of Marysville, painted a graffiti mural on July 5 as part of Edmonds’ On The Fence initiative.
The goal of the project is to show temporary installations by artists from all over the Puget Sound region on a chain-link fence in the parking lot of ArtWorks, an artists’ gathering space in downtown Edmonds.
The project is sponsored by the Edmonds Arts Commission.
Whaley received a $200 stipend from the commission to buy materials.
“This was an awesome opportunity,” he said. “I can finally do something and not have people see it in a bad way.”
The opportunity meant a lot for Whaley, who has had trouble with the law and spent time in juvenile detention.
He mostly got in trouble for tagging.
“It gave me a thrill,” he said. “I was heading down a really bad path, and I wanted to get out of it.”
He is on probation and enrolled in the Promising Artists In Recovery program.
The program serves Snohomish County’s young people who have been involved with juvenile court, said coordinator Henri Wilson.
Wilson’s program falls into a larger project called Reclaiming Futures Snohomish County.
“We look for ways to help youth find positive opportunities as they build skills and relationships with artists and others in the community,” she said.
Wilson first met Whaley briefly about three years ago while making fish sculptures in Arlington. They met again earlier this year during a project creating collages out of books. Wilson was teaching that class.
“He’s come such a long way,” Wilson said. “He has a definite inner pilot about art.”
The mural went beyond what he thought he could do, Whaley said. It starts with many red balloons, representing troubles and mistakes. As you look on, there are fewer red balloons. Blue and yellow ones begin to appear, looking bigger and brighter. They represent happiness and success.
“I’m a better person now,” Whaley said. “I want a new beginning.”