What Does Peace Mean To Me

Kevin with Octopus Bench
Kevin sitting on his finished bench for WDRC campaign.

It’s been some time since I have last written anything. Life has been quite the journey these past few years for us all and many of us have become different. We have all had to learn to transition in some form or another to find a balance to something that was out of our control, yet we all felt very controlled.

I feel this truly hurt our mental health and inner peace. We all became disrupted to the core. We have all suffered trauma. At least in some form or another. This plays a weight on the soul and now that we are coming out of this pandemic blur and diving into world wars and inflation, we need to find peace.

Peace is a broad word and what that means to everyone. That’s where I come into all of this. In August of 2021, I was approached by Jennifer Stephens with Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center with the idea of gathering a group of local artists to donate their time and energies to paint benches with a focus on what peace means to them. I thought at first, that sounds fun and doable.

Then October 24, 2021, I went into cardiac arrest. Apparently, while bathing one of my dogs, I started to go into cardiac arrest and was taken to the hospital. They swiftly took me from the emergency room with a pit crew of doctors and nurses into a large room where they put a stent in my heart and sent me to my recovery room.  Let’s just say, this gave me time to reflect.  A LOT!

A heart attack can really fuck with a person’s psyche. This life experience stopped all creativity and really found myself left with little direction or desire to do what I was doing. It came to me that I worked hard for others and really didn’t give myself the worth to take on a challenge and find something to help me be better. I felt hopeless and useless in the same breath. I know all of this was untrue, but I really had so little direction to this new me was going to be.

In late November 2022, I heard from Jennifer at Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center to talk about the bench project and if I am still on board to be part of that. I needed that nudge to give me purpose and hope to do something to feel worth and give back unconditionally. I said to Jennifer to count me in and we will make it happen. I can honestly say at this point this entire project has changed me as a person and artist. That being said, if you have never curated artists for a project, be prepared for all sorts of unique situations. A good curator can handle the challenges that each artist may have.

Fast forward to April 2022. We have 10 benches being built and need to be delivered to the various artists. Each artist was asked to paint a reflection of what peace does means to them and reflect that in their interpretation to help promote community conversations. There were several artists and groups I hoped would be part of the entire campaign. It was important for me to have a diverse and inclusive group of artists that would entirely represent our community in its present form. This was new for me in this capacity and with this new feeling of needing to bond and heal each other. I started to feel like I had purpose again.

One of these benches was given to me. I had not done any artwork since my heart attack. I lost that part of me as it usually happens when I experience life traumas. It takes time for me as an indigo child to balance my being to find a purpose and need to reconnect to my source to allow that creativity to flow. I now had this bench. Blank. Almost a void looking into fear. I often get scared for the best reference of understanding that I will fail at something I haven’t even started. It’s unhealthy anxiety that often has kept me from following through on the past in doing projects. I knew I really needed to move past drove all these inner thoughts and ideas.


Ombre Bench process
The bench is being painted with a wonderful Ombre tone prior to the detail.

Spray paint, bright red and orange tones, and the determination to overcome a 6-month creative block. I just decided to drive in deep with the base of the bench. I broke my block. From there, I knew I could overcome whatever it was that was blocking that creative divide. I knew in advance what my idea for my bench and its meaning and purpose might be but not sure what that would really look like.  I knew that it needed to have a sea life feeling with the depths of the oceans. In 2020, I became fascinated with cephalopods and octopi. Maybe it was because I grew up in Florida and around oceans and various sea life. I also watched the documentary My Octopus Teacher and was completely overwhelmed with its importance and messaging. I thought about what it would look like if I had an octopus enveloping the bench in its own surrounding. How would that make someone feel? how would they sit or feel compelled to see in various poses. As an artist, I really like to create pieces that are interactive and can be part of.

Once I was able to get the bench in my ZenDen studio, the entire process went smoothly and in a short period of time to create. The more I was able to add in between layers gave depth and texture. I was able to spend two days back and forth during different times of the day to show maximum shading and depth opportunities to the piece. I wanted you to feel like you are sitting with this sentinel creature, the octopus.

Bench in process
The bench is in process of its first layers of the octopus.

This now brings me to my meaning on my bench. What does peace mean to me? I truly try to be a forever optimist and live by the message of being the ripple of positivity. My bench needed to represent so many things people may not know about me. I love the ocean. I love the things we don’t know about our oceans. Did you know that we know more about our universe than we do our oceans? Did you know that we only know about 10% of our oceans? That’s so crazy. So, the oceans in the deepest

Octopus in progress
The octopus bench in progressing and adding details.

of deeps give me the greatest peace while the greatest fears in the same breath.  I love sea life and the things that help our oceans and life on this planet sustain and thrive. For them, we cannot survive. It has always given me a great appreciation for our oceans and all that lives in them. We are better and cannot survive without it in harmony with us. Isn’t that what peace should be? Harmony in all that is around us and we have lost that in our modern world.


Now the benches are done. My garage has been a haven of creativity ready to share with our community. This culmination of talent to be seen in one location is truly something to behold and take great pride in. I look in awe and think, this was a vision that has seen its manifestation. So many personal boundaries have been broken and overcome. So many talents to be shared deserve their time for the community to embrace. We are blessed collectively and the gratitude I have to help ring lead this campaign with Jennifer at WDRC.

I am hoping this campaign can bring some honest and powerful community conversations throughout our community. We have a great group of talented artists and groups that have given their interpretations of ‘What Peace Means to You.’ I could not be prouder and more honored to be part of this campaign. This gave me life again and in a whole new direction. This gave me the opportunity to let go of unneeded emotions, hurdles, and challenges seeming less accomplishing. Thank you for allowing me to be my authentic self to our community.

I welcome anyone to share their stories about What Peace Mean to You and learn about all the other artists and their bench and where to find them HERE. We all deserve peace and your story makes a difference to someone you may never know.

Finished Bench
The final version of Kevin’s bench and ready to go to BECU.
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