Painter, educator, printer, Philip Hicken once said, “Art isn’t paint; it’s love.” With a paintbrush in her hand, Irisa Kennedy is bringing new art to life in Lewis County. Stunning pieces are popping up in Chehalis and she is the source of some of the magnificent works of art. 

Kennedy is a Lewis County transplant from Arizona. Growing up she knew her love for art was her passion. Seeing beauty in the Earth inspires her. Remarkably, apart from one college art class, she’s had no formal training. Kennedy sets a precedent that if you pursue the things that you love and bring you joy; you can make them successful.

Irisa Kennedy
Mundane items are made beautiful with Kennedy’s touch like the lightbox with a stag silhouette. Photo courtesy: Experience Chehalis

Partnering with the Chehalis Community Renaissance Team, Kennedy has added to the artwork seen during a daily walk or drive around town. An electrical box at the intersection by Walgreens now hosts a beautiful nature scene, with a stag silhouette. Travel over the I-5 overpass at Chamber Way to see her other picturesque fall scene on an electrical box.

While visiting the historic downtown, keep a watchful eye out for Queen Anne’s Lace, Foxglove or a Trillium as part of Kennedy’s handiwork. Something not typically beautiful, trash can lids have been painted with native plant murals and trivia facts about the local shops, buildings and even city history. Each top is decked with vibrant colors and is a great testament to the incredibly talented artists in our area.

M & K Town Store offered a unique canvas for Kennedy, as they commissioned a piece of hers adorned on a piano. Customers can enjoy her beautiful artwork when they frequent the shop. Pink roses wind their way around the piano and grace its structure with their wonderfully painted vines. Soon a cut-out photo prop will be outside the convenient and friendly shop as well. Be on the lookout for glimpses of Bigfoot and maybe other fun creatures as you travel through downtown Chehalis.

Irisa Kennedy
Kennedy posing with her newly painted photo prop soon to be seen in Chehalis. Photo credit: Irisa Kennedy

Market Street will soon proudly boast two more of Kennedy’s murals. A lovely addition to the Market Street Bakery wall will be completed this month, as a wonderful tribute to nature.

Also combining a love of painting and art with a passion for rock climbing, Kennedy is excited with the opportunity to jump back in the harness to help complete a stunning mural on the Elk’s building. The depiction of a train shining a brilliant headlight down the rails in a nightscape illuminating falling leaves is a wonderful portrayal of the importance of trains to the city’s history.

Kennedy’s love of nature is shown in her artwork and her other passions. She feels the importance of taking care of the earth that sustains our lives. She is starting up and building an organization called Suspended Surplus, bringing the idea of change into a reality. Everyone is capable of doing small things and combining those efforts causes a real and impactful transformation.

The idea is based on a supply and demand trade system. For example, when a farmer has a surplus, he donates it and is credited in his account for the value. The cardholder can receive and spend credits earned for manual labor or a surplus type donation.

Irisa Kennedy
Historic Downtown Chehalis trashcan lid painted with local native plants and trivia facts. Photo courtesy: Experience Chehalis

Suspended Surplus is Kennedy’s idea of a new purchase power system to bring change in our economic classes with giving and trading over buying and selling. The concept stemmed from the story about a man experiencing homelessness asking for change outside a coffee shop, while a man inside prepaid for his coffee. This type of giving cascaded and trickled into many coffees “suspended” and those in need only had to ask for their suspended coffee.

Another of Kennedy’s projects is organizing an Earth Day clean up. She envisions a large group effort and bringing together people to do a small part. The combined efforts to care for nature is something Kennedy is passionate about. She sees that each person can be a part of a bigger piece just by helping to do little things around them. It is not a problem that is too large if we just simply start with easy and tangible steps.

Irisa Kennedy
A self-portrait of Irisa Kennedy. Photo credit: Irisa Kennedy

Kennedy enjoys her work because it is her passion and joy. Being an artist can be a daunting career or one that is not often pursued. Yet, even when told it was impossible, she discovered a way to pursue art as a successful career and with no training. She believes in chasing after dreams, so they can become reality.

To see more of Kennedy’s art follow her on Instagram at irisazart or check out her Etsy shop.

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