Inspire: This young Sudbury artist leaves her mark on Sudbury high school
Not only is Kahlan Kivisto interested in art, but she also volunteers with Girl Guides, School Legislature and Street Outreach Sudbury.
A blank page is intimidating for a writer. For a painter, a blank canvas is just as intimidating.
But Kahlan Kivisto, 17, confidently takes on the challenge of a blank wall to create a mural at Sudbury High School.
Kahlan, a visual arts student at Sudbury Secondary, wants to leave her mark on the school. She doesn’t yet have a name for the nine-meter mural, but she’s developing ideas to celebrate the arts with depictions of musical superstars such as David Bowie, Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra to inspire future instrumental and vocal students.
“I have to finish it by the end of school (in June)… It will be hard work, but good work. I love (the idea) of having something that I designed at school,” the bubbly teenager said.
Soon, she’ll start her school day armed with paints and brushes, since she plans to do most of the mural work during her daily spare hours.
The 12th grader gained valuable experience last summer when she was one of two student apprentices working on the mural honoring longtime Jeopardy TV host Alex Trebek ! on the outside wall of the school.
It was created by Montreal artist Kevin Ledo during the Up Here Festival. The project, which honors the Sudbury native who died in 2019, was sponsored by the Rainbow District School Board.
Ledo created the nine-story mural of Canadian singer and songwriter Leonard Cohen on Saint-Laurent Boulevard in Montreal in 2017. (This is one of two Cohen murals in Montreal; the second, titled “Tower of Song “, is located on Crescent Street, was created by El Mac and Gene Pendon.)
“I loved painting the mural. I helped out for about 20 hours. It was truly amazing to meet the artist. He had a great work ethic and was very helpful. He works internationally,” said Kahlan said.
This experience will look great on her resume. She hopes to pursue a career as an artist.
Life is pretty amazing for Kahlan, the daughter of Christie and Victor Kahlan. Incredible is his favorite adjective.
“The staff at Sudbury High School are amazing, especially the art teachers. They are very supportive,” she said.
The busy teenager balances her school schedule with a part-time job at Subway and other pursuits that include hanging out with friends when she can.
Kahlan volunteers with the school parliament, helps with SOS – Street Outreach Sudbury, a group that distributes food and clothing to the homeless, and is a member of the Youth Engagement Council with Volunteer Sudbury.
The council’s goal is to encourage students to volunteer and provide information on where they can accumulate the volunteer hours needed to graduate from high school.
“We meet weekly (via Zoom), three weeks with high school students and once a month with post-secondary members as well,” Kahlan said.
She honed her leadership skills and gained confidence as a guide.
“I’ve been a guide for 13 years. I started with Sparks when I was five.”
This year, she sits on the Provincial Guiding Council.
“The board girls are amazing. We plan activities (for the guides) such as paint nights and astronomy nights.”
Another council project runs forums for Girl Guides to learn about advocacy and “how small actions can create big change. It targets young girls to learn these skills so they can use them as they grow up “, she said.
The guides allowed Kahlan to get to know other young women across Canada and to travel.
At the age of 14, she was one of 20 Canadian Girl Guides chosen to visit London, England, home to one of the centers of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts.
“We first met in Toronto the day of the flight. It was nerve wracking.”
To increase her butterflies, she was supposed to fly from Sudbury the night before to Pearson Airport, but the weather did not cooperate. Her parents had to drive her to Toronto the next morning for her flight overseas that evening.
Kahlan is looking forward to going to college in the fall to study arts and computer science. His first choice is the University of British Columbia, Okanagan campus.
“It’s a beautiful place, I have family there, I never see it. It really is an incredible school that encourages entrepreneurship.”
Examples of artwork by Kahlan and that of other Sudbury high school students can be viewed here.
Kahlan Kivisto words of inspiration
Kahlan shares the words of contemporary English writer Neil Gaiman. “The one thing you have that no one else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can .”
Vicki Gilhula is a freelance writer.