About 25 years ago Grace Washington used to see her son’s face among the crowd of little boys and girls at Northeast Elementary School in Tacoma. Her son, Michael T. Washington was a student there, and she was an art teacher.

His legacy is part of the reason why Washington returned Thursday for a special assembly to unveil her latest masterpiece called, “Together We Rise.” It’s an oil canvas painting that was touched by more than 300 little hands that attend Northeast Elementary School. It’s an American flag that shows off the ethnic diversity of Northeast.

“I feel strongly about equality and equity. People are important, so it doesn’t matter where we come from, what language we speak, people are important. We’re different but ultimately we are the same,” said Washington.

The painting hangs in the Michael T. Washington Library at the school. The library is named after her son, who grew up in Tacoma and joined the Marines shortly after high school. He was died in 2008.

“He was killed in Afghanistan. He did one tour in Iraq and then after that he was home for a bit and then he went to Afghanistan,” said Washington. “Initially when Michael died it was hard going anywhere.”

Michael T. Washington.

The walls of her home display more of her artwork, which she credits to helping her move forward. It’s vibrant, colorful, and filled with an expression of her faith and generosity.

“Basically, I see art in everything,” she said.

She used artwork to help her heal but also to give back to others including the school that provided a sense of community for her before and during and after her son’s passing.

“I’ve been loved back,” Washington said. “I’ve got a lot of friends and a lot of people who support me.”