This artist is using a decades-long tradition with hopes to spread an important message

This artist is using a decades-long tradition with hopes to spread an important message
Posted at 8:53 PM, Jul 26, 2022

RICHMOND, Va. -- For over 60 years, Buford Road Pharmacy has served the people of Bon Air.

For nearly half that time, a group of painters has decorated the front windows of the business to celebrate the season or just to bring joy to those who pass by.

For the past six years, Katie Catlett has served not only as a manager of various departments, currently the gift floor, but also as the resident window painter. She is no stranger to art.

"I won my first art contest at six years old. I was doing portraits by the time I was ten," Catlett said.

There was also a scholarship to the National Portrait Gallery, studies at VCU and work that was featured in newspapers and exhibits.

However, Catlett said that she eventually tired of portraits as people always wanted to look perfect.

"And I think what makes somebody interesting is the wrinkles and the differences in their faces," Catlett said.

When she came to Buford, she found another chance for her to pick the brush back up.

"I kind of felt lucky in that I could come here and do this and be creative," Catlett said.

In doing so, she became the fourth painter in the decades-long tradition at the Bon Air store.

The tradition started 27 years ago by florist Debbie Arrighi. The then store owner's daughter found herself inspired by the old display windows in downtown department stores.

"That used to be a big thing when old people like me were a child. You'd go down there and the windows were animated and there was so much stuff that moved and was beautiful. There was painting on them," Arrighi said.

Along with creating memories for the next generation, Catlett's latest work aims to spread a message.

"I get to a point where I just wanted to say something I felt very strongly about," Catlett said.

Driven by the war in Ukraine and what she said has been a lack of civility and understanding in society, Catlett painted what she calls a garden of hope.

"Growing things that we hope will continue to get better," Catlett said.

The mural features sunflowers, the national flower of Ukraine and a diverse group of people covered in flags for causes and countries, carrying crayons to add words of inspiration.

"Civility, unity, understanding, love, peace, hope," Catlett said.

Catlett said she hopes people who see this will take time to think about those words and help the message to grow.