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Kirkland teen earns national recognition for art project about salmon restoration

Juanita High School student Austin Picinich is using his passion for painting to put together education murals about salmon habitat restoration.

KIRKLAND, Wash. — A local high schooler's art-driven awareness campaign caught the attention of a national competition - earning him thousands to put toward higher education. 

Juanita High School student Austin Picinich decided to use his passion for painting to create a project called Save Our Salmon Through Art (SOS) which aims to raise awareness about salmon restoration in north Lake Washington creeks. With the help of more than 160 volunteers, he has been able to transform blank walls into huge educational murals. 

Picinich's first mural is 112 feet long near Juanita Creek in Kirkland. 

“I drove by this big blank wall every day and thought this would be a perfect place to kick off my project,” Picinich said. 

SOS has also painted a second mural in Lake Forest Park, which is 188 feet long. The mural straddles a roadway that crosses over McAleer Creek. 

“Now people who drive that way will be reminded that there’s salmon in the stream running under that roadway,” Picinich said.

The project caught the attention of a national competition for young leaders. 

Picinich is one of 15 recipients of the 2022 Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes. Executive Director Barbara Ann Richman said Picinich is a shining example of what the competition is looking for in young leaders. 

“Austin was chosen for his Save our Salmon Through Art initiative, which creates vibrant public art projects and murals in the Greater Seattle area that engage, educate, and empower communities to restore salmon spawning streams. We love the way he’s using his artistic passion and talent for the greater good. His creativity, positivity, courage, and hard work are hugely inspiring, and we’re delighted to honor him!” Richman said. 

The Save Our Salmon Through Art project already has plans to expand into Bothell and Magnuson park with even more locations in the works. 

“The best part is that these are more than murals. They bring the community together and raise awareness about protecting our salmon and we raised good money along the way,” Picinich said. 

The project has raised over $17,000 to support local streams. You can support the SOS campaign by purchasing merchandise like stickers and shirts through his website. All of the proceeds go to support local salmon conservation efforts.


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