KIRKLAND, Wash. — Austin Picinich is a 16-year-old acrylic painter who merges realism with a little bit of his imagination.
He started painting at the very early age of seven and quickly realized that art was his passion. After participating and showcasing his art in many local arts festivals, Picinich wanted to take his creations to the next level, and murals were the calling.
He had the idea to paint a 112-foot mural to raise awareness for salmon restoration in Juanita Creek and North Lake Washington creeks, inviting the community to come and paint together. More than 160 volunteers signed up to be part of this project.
“Art has so many layers to it," Executive Director of Urban Artworks Amanda Hashagen said. "You can educate, you can bring awareness, you can create conversation.”
The idea for the Save Our Salmon Mural started in October 2021. Picinich was one of 28 teens from across the country selected to attend the First Tee Innovators Forum in San Jose, California, a leadership summit challenging teens to develop an innovative community service project to bring back to our communities.
“I knew salmon was what I wanted to make the focus of it," Picinich said. "My idea for a project was a public art piece to brighten up the community."
Picinich partnered with the University of Washington’s North Lake Washington Salmon Watchers program. Led by UW Bothell biology professor Dr. Jeff Jensen, the Salmon Watchers program is working to research, restore and raise awareness for stream health and salmon populations. They team up with students and community volunteers to positively impact streams like Juanita Creek.
“I think the art idea was fantastic," Jensen said. "Just having all this color, all these fish ... plus some education along the side. I think it really draws people's attention."
The mural is located at SPUD Fish & Chips in Kirkland across from Juanita Beach Park and Juanita Creek.
Picinich also created cool merchandise with the mural design, and 100% of the proceeds will go towards the North Lake Washington Salmon Watchers.