While Saugus High students continue to pick up the pieces and heal from the deadly campus shooting that took place Nov. 14, Kiki Egetoe picked up a paintbrush.
Egetoe is currently a senior at Saugus High School. To cope with the tragedy, and make something beautiful in the process, Egetoe painted victims from the Saugus shooting and gifted the paintings to their families.
“Painting is my escape and it is something that will always make me happy,” said Egetoe. “Making these paintings made the grieving process a lot better because I found a way to memorialize them.”
Egetoe is an expressionist artist, who decided to use her talent to create portraits of Gracie Anne Muehlberger, Dominic Michael Blackwell and Nathan Berhow, and gift them to their families in their time of grieving.
On the morning of Nov. 14, Egetoe was found hiding behind choir dresses in teacher Kaytie Holt’s choir closet, waiting for help. Once she was found by deputies, Egetoe describes how she went into “helping mode” and began thinking of ways she could assist others in this situation.
Initially, Egetoe did not have the proper paints to paint the portraits and, only after she received a fresh pack of Grumbacher paint from a woman at church, did she begin painting.
Egetoe did not know Gracie or Dominic, but she did share mutual friends with Berhow.
“I painted his picture first, because I thought about his mom and how she needed support during this time because of the hate and sadness she was experiencing,” said Egetoe. “I really wanted to capture him for who he was before those 16 seconds.”
With bright colors and thick paint strides, Egetoe painted Berhow at a younger age with his pet. Through the help of Kavuko Forbes, a friend’s mother, Egetoe was able to give the portrait to Berhow’s mother at his funeral in December.
“I let the portraits speak for themselves,” said Egetoe. “I do not expect anything in return because I did this out of the kindness of my heart.”
Over this past week, Egetoe completed Gracie’s painting and has plans to meet with her family this weekend to give them the portrait.
“Even though I didn’t know Gracie before, her face is in my memory forever,” said Egetoe. “I stared at her face for hours while I painted.”
Currently, Egetoe is completing Blackwell’s portrait and hopes to finish it soon to give to the Blackwell family. Each painting is completed over a period of weeks, but on average each painting takes a total of 30 to 48 hours, Egetoe says.
Egetoe’s love for art spans back to when she was a child; however, as she grew up she drifted from painting until she took an art class at Saugus.
“Before the class, I didn’t have the supplies at home to start painting,” said Egetoe. “I fell right back in love with it again.”
In her free time, Egetoe volunteers at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, drawing with patients and comforting them with conversation, as well. In the future, Egetoe wants to pursue a degree in both art and psychology to become an art therapist who helps others through different art forms.
With two months having passed since the shooting, Egetoe has been able to heal through her art, and hopes to provide some comfort to those affected by the tragedy.
“Trial was given to make us stronger,” said Egetoe. “I know I needed to show love to these people, so I decided to do it through something I love, which is painting.”