LEXINGTON — A Lexington native and his family are using their love of art to create spray paint nature murals on the cabins at Camp Arrowhead.
Josh Arias said he and his family have always been interested in the arts.
His father, Reynaldo, enjoys to paint while his mother, Alba, bakes and enjoys decorating cakes.
His brother Daniel, writes poetry and is the speech coach at Lexington High School. His sister, Katherine, graduated from Hastings College with a degree in art and she interns at the Nebraska Art Museum in Kearney.
“Art is a pillar for the entire family,” states the Camp Arrowhead website.
Josh himself has been working with spray paint for the past 15 years; he said he was encouraged to get into art by Lexington art teachers and his family.
Growing up in Los Angeles, Calif., Josh said spray paint art and graffiti were all around him. In Lexington he would watch the train cars go by, decorated with all manner of art styles, lettering, designs, etc. He said he would practice his own spray painting on plywood at home.
While attending the University of Nebraska at Kearney, Josh met Derek Rusher around 2014 and they had an immediate connection through both art and sports.
At the time, Josh was studying social work at the University of Nebraska at Kearney and serving as an intern with Buffalo County Community Partners.
Rusher, taught art at West Kearney High School at the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center for 11 years, invited Arias into his classroom as a volunteer instructor.
The two men would go on to found Impact Art, a non-profit that seeks to promote and create positive public art, mentor adults and young artists and beautify, revitalize and educate communities.
“We believe art ignites change,” according to the Impact Art Facebook page.
Impact Art has created several murals in Kearney. Josh and Katherine worked with Rusher on the Lincoln Highway mural on the south side of the Garrett Tires building and the sandhill crane scene on the north side of Bruce Furniture.
They also created the billowing American flag on the Kearney VFW Club., two pieces on the Chesterman Coca-Cola/Dr. Pepper bottling plant and the giant books on the west side of Kearney Public Library.
Impact Art also created a mural in downtown Araphaoe, with the large letters spelling out the name of the town, with different scenes in each of the letters.
After graduating from UNK in 2016, Josh became the full-time youth coordinator at Buffalo County Community Partners, a Kearney-based non-profit dedicated to improving the quality of life throughout the area.
Then in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the area, turning the daily routine on its head. Josh said he was able to do most of his work with Buffalo County Community Partners through Zoom and decided to stay with his parents for a month.
Josh’s parents are the camp rangers for Camp Arrowhead, a Seventh Day Adventist Church owned, non-profit, 300 acre camp, southwest of Lexington along the Platte River.
It was during the pandemic slowdown Josh had the idea for a project; he wanted to create spray paint murals on all of the cabins at Camp Arrowhead.
His parents gave Josh and his sister complete freedom to decorate the cabins as they saw fit, so long as the designs were nature based.
Josh and Katherine would get different images and styles from online and then Katherine would combine them all in Photoshop.
Using nothing but the image on his phone and multiple cans of spray paint, Josh will free hand the murals.
He said he uses specialty spray paint for the project, he likes Belton from Germany and MTN from Spain. He also uses several different types of nozzles to create different effects, to paint fine lines or fill in large areas.
So far, he has painted 15 murals on the cabins, but hopes to do multiple murals on each different wall. He said each mural would take roughly a day to paint.
Josh signs each of the murals with the word “Hope” and the year it was painted. It’s a testament to what he believes art can do for people.
Katherine has also done her own spray painting, claiming the longer walls of the camp’s bathroom facilities as her canvas.
Josh said 2020 onward had been a chaotic time but he wanted to do something positive that would help both Camp Arrowhead and the people who visit. He hopes people will come out to enjoy the murals, take senior photos with them, etc.
Josh said the murals and the camp are here for the Lexington community to enjoy nature and have a good time with family and friends. True to the mission of Impact Art he said he wants his artistry to be “positive public art.”
Camp Arrowhead is open from April to October, call 308-324-3584 to make reservations or inquire about visiting.