HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo (KDVR) — As the two year anniversary of the STEM School shooting approaches, a local Girl Scout is working with an artist to help with the healing process.
Grace Bielefeldt is a senior at STEM School Highlands Ranch. She is also a Girl Scout who is working on her Gold Award, the highest award you can earn as a Girl Scout.
“The impetus for my project was the shooting that happened at my school May 7, 2019. It was really surreal,” Bielefeldt said. “There was an outcry from students calling for attention to mental health. That really resonated with me because it showed me we were recognizing this.”
Grace chose to tell the story of mental health and healing through artwork. She asked local artist James Holmes to help her create a piece. They have worked together for the past six months.
“She had me convinced after about 30 seconds,” Holmes said. “Her sincerity, the story behind why she was doing it, her purpose in doing it. She wanted to create a project that would tell a story of the struggles some kids go through with mental health.”
Together, they came up with a concept that uses four panels to represent the four seasons.
“We agreed one nice metaphor we could work on is the cycles of life represented in the four seasons,” Holmes said. “This has been an obsessive thought process as much as a painting process, trying to figure out how to visually communicate the message effectively.”
“I chose an artistic approach. I like art, I’ve been doing art as long as I can remember. I felt a connection to it,” Bielefeldt said. “I feel it unites people and everyone can have their own interpretation of it. I wasn’t seeking to make my project a memorial, but I wanted to reach a greater audience. I think everybody has some relation to mental health one way or another.”
Grace was able to secure a space in the lobby of the Northridge Rec Center in Highlands Ranch for the permanent installation. Grace said the space was very meaningful because several students ran there during the shooting.
“I knew I wanted it to be colorful from the very beginning because the place we were going to be installing the art is the place, as students after the shooting, (where) we were all reunited with our parents,” Bielefeldt said. “So it has a lot of memories that are kind of heavy, some might say it’s a dark place, so I wanted to take this location with so much meaning for so many of us and brighten it up and really make it a place people want to visit.”
Grace wants teens experiencing mental health issues to understand they are not alone and there is hope.
“I think the message isn’t necessarily the same for every person when you look at this piece of art,” Bielefeldt said. “But it’s clear it’s bright and positive. Like the light at the end of the tunnel kind of thing. So I hope when people see this art they see the care of the community all coming together to show you are seen.”
Holmes said it was an honor to be invited to be part of this project.
“Knowing what happened at STEM, knowing Grace is a senior at the school had a desire to do something greater than herself to acknowledge the struggles that some kids have and also acknowledge the events of that day, it was a huge responsibility,” Holmes said. “I wanted to support her vision and her dream. It’s a great opportunity as an artist to be work on something this important.”
Grace said the project also helps with her own healing process.
“The shooting was a very huge concept, very traumatic. A very big concept for my brain to understand,” Bielefeldt said. “This helped me compartmentalize that and work through it and go on a journey. I wanted to give back to this community that really helped me and all my classmates so much after the tragedy.”
The painting will be unveiled on May 4 at 6pm at Northridge Rec Center in Highlands Ranch.