Valerie Nieto doesn’t remember when she began drawing, but she does remember always having the desire.
“It helps me focus if I’m drawing,” she said. “It helps me slow down my brain.”
Nieto also uses her art to draw attention to important causes.
When she and her husband, John, moved to Granite Shoals from Phoenix, Arizona, over two years ago, she found an organization that aligned with her passion to make the world a better place: Joseph’s Food Pantry. The faith-based organization distributes food, clothing, and household items to people in need in the community.
Nieto approached founders Mary Lou and Roy Guerrero about painting a mural on the side of the pantry’s building. They agreed, and the three came up with a theme.
“I wanted it to be different, something different in the community,” Roy Guerrero said. “To me, (the pantry) makes a difference in the community.”
Nieto said Mary Lou Guerrero “wanted something colorful and uplifting. She wanted flowers. My (mural’s) story is colorful and bright.”
The mural features flowers in yellow, blue, pink, and white as well as a Bible verse and an olive branch and a dove “extending peace to the world to breathe life into the dark world,” Nieto said. “I like the concept of flowers and bright colors.”
Nieto’s desire to help others grew from her volunteer work in Phoenix. While attending college, she joined organizations with missions of helping the community, including Take Back the Night, which works to end sexual and domestic assault. Nieto also volunteered at a church food pantry.
She’s continuing what she started in Phoenix in the Highland Lakes community.
The Joseph’s Food Pantry mural, which Nieto started about 16 months ago, has accomplished what she and the Guerreros had hoped: bringing more beauty to Granite Shoals and awareness of the food pantry.
“I think it’s an awesome thing for the community,” Roy Guerrero said. “It brightens up the neighborhood.”
The mural was also used as an example by another Granite Shoals resident and art lover, Susan Bushart, when she talked to the City Council about forming a committee to paint other public murals across town.
Nieto is pleased with the response.
“I’m glad (Bushart) wants to beautify the neighborhood,” Nieto said. “I think that’s what leaves you a legacy. I hope they cover this place in murals. Art is a proof positive for people.”
Nieto said she has no more than eight hours of work left before the mural is complete, which includes the dove and the sun at the very top corner.
“I’m happier when I’m doing art,” she said. “I paint this not for the recognition. I paint this for the food bank to get recognition. The people who come to the food bank can look at something and be inspired and hopeful.”
Joseph’s Food Pantry is located at 706 N. Philips Ranch Road in Granite Shoals. Visit the website or call 830-220-2344 for more information.