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'True Colors:' Bozeman teenager paints to raise money for mental health during pandemic

Posted at 2:53 PM, Apr 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-08 16:53:19-04

The talents of a 15-year-old Bozeman girl send a powerful message during these days when we have to stay at home.

To Averi Iris, it's more than a hobby. It's a passion.

And being stuck in quarantine, she wants to put her paintbrush in the right place.

"It's just kind of cool to see it all come together,” Averi says.

Whether it’s horses, moose, or a pair of grizzly bears, it’s Averi's paintbrush that’s been making them happen since she was 10 years old.

"I was painting some bears and then my mom came into my room and she had the idea to just do a painting,” she says.

But then, just before everyone had to stay at home, her family went through tragedy.

"Last month, we lost my cousin, Casey,” Iris says. “We just wanted to donate to a mental illness organization just to help people."

With that in mind, Iris went to work, paintbrush and talent in hand.

Iris began to paint a painting, featuring several bison in a Montana prairie setting.

"I'm really lucky,” Iris says. “I've been so bored if I didn't have something to do."

Behind the eyes of a herd of bison, step-by-step, Iris recreated her cousin and his family in stunning detail.

"I switched to a slightly bigger brush just to get it on faster,” Iris said at one point in a timelapse video.

“I'm gonna go get a bigger brush,” Iris said moments later, laughing.

"Over this time, suicide has spiked a lot,” Iris says. “It's really bad, especially in Montana.”

She’s aiming for a little over $1,000.

Every cent is going to either the National Alliance on Mental Health or split with the highest bidder’s choice of mental health organization.

And in just a few days -- she’s nearly reached her goal.

“No, it was really fast,” Iris says when asked if she expected that kind of response.

All the while, she was thinking of her cousin and others who are coping with similar tragedies during these days stuck inside.

"It's just supposed to support mental health and just help people,” Iris says. “I hope this helps someone."

Iris and her mother, Jill, have set up a website so you can bid on the painting, “True Colors.”

Iris also has a website dedicated to showcasing all of her work and past shows.