After the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Leila Meyer and Emmalyn Kukura decided they wanted to take a stand and join others in supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.

"We thought it was important to find a peaceful way to support that movement," Meyer said.

"Both Leila and I are artists, so we wanted to use art as a way to express ourselves on this issue," Kukura said. "That's what art is all about."

So the pair -- both members of Grandview Heights High School's class of 2020 -- created a plan to hold a community painting project to give their classmates and others a chance to express themselves on the issue.

Within 48 hours they organized an event that was held June 2 at Wyman Woods in Grandview Heights.

They promoted the event "using all kinds of social media," Meyer said.

About 100 people attended and painted 101 canvases Meyer and Kukura have combined into a mural.

"We weren't sure what kind of response we would get," Kukura said. "We were overwhelmed by how many people showed up. It was amazing."

Most of the participants were current or recent high school students, Meyer said.

"It was a great atmosphere. There was music playing and everybody was really positive and upbeat," she said. "Most of all, it was a peaceful event."

Along with the paintings, the students collected $1,100 in donations, which they are using to pay for the paint supplies.

They are donating the remaining money to the Columbus Freedom Fund.

During the event, participants practiced social distancing and wore masks while they created their contribution to the mural.

"People were free to come up with their own ideas," Kukura said.

Many chose to include quotes or slogans in their paintings, including "Be the Change," "Be Kind," "No Justice No Peace," "Spread Kindness Not Hate" and "Black Lives Matter."

Others painted hands or raised fists or portraits of Floyd, Kukura said.

"We wanted to show the community how we could come together and create art to inspire others and raise awareness," she said.

"As an Asian American, I've never experienced even a fraction of what people in the African American community have to go through," Meyer said.

"My heart is aching. Everyone else's heart is aching. We felt like we needed to find a way for people to express that ache."

The original plan she and Kukura had was to display the individual paintings throughout the Grandview and Columbus communities, she said.

"We decided it would be more impactful if we could create a mural that put all the paintings together," Meyer said.

They met June 10 with COSI CEO Frederic Bertley, who expressed interest in displaying the mural at the museum once it reopens, she said.

The museum is interested in displaying the mural, although the discussion has just begun and there are still details to work out, said Jaclyn Reynolds, COSI director of communications.

One possibility they discussed with Bertley is holding another painting event at the museum to add more canvases to the mural, Meyer said.

Both Meyer and Kukura will be studying architecture in college this fall. Meyer will attend the University of Michigan and Kukura will go to the University of Cincinnati.

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