Every time Sherri and Bob Albern walk along the creek path in Manitou Springs, their daughter, Kali, is waiting to visit them.
She’s not there in person, but she is there in spirit.
Images from the artist’s 20 or so sketchbooks — a blue bird wearing a top hat and smoking a pipe, a bubble-blowing dragon, angel foxes — are now part of a longstanding but revamped 8-foot-tall mural that stretches 200 feet along a wall lining the walkway.
Kali attended Manitou Springs Elementary School, graduated from CIVA Charter High School in 2013 and studied art at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania before she died in 2015, after suffering from an intractable migraine for eight months. Sherri took her to hospitals around the country, including the Mayo Clinic, to decipher a diagnosis and get help, but none was found. On a mid-August day, after a visit to a local emergency room, Kali was sent home, where she died during the night. She was 20.
“She was extremely unique,” Sherri said. “Authentic. Artistic. Loving and kind. She was herself, and if you ask anybody who knew her, they would agree — she was herself.”
Her online obituary in The Gazette paints an altruistic portrait: “Kali spent her life caring about people and helping others with their troubles and challenges. From preschool through high school she always went right up to new students and welcomed them with open arms. Even when she went to college and was not feeling well she was the go-to person for anyone with problems ranging from boyfriends or girlfriends to classroom work.”
Over the last year, the Alberns regularly strolled by the faded mural, which was originally painted in the mid-’90s by Allen Burton and featured landscapes of mountains and tundra, with magpies, flowers and a bubble-blowing character. Sherri began to think how lonely young people must have felt during the pandemic, after not being allowed in classrooms or to spend time with friends. She envisioned repainting the mural as a project to bring teens together and reached out to the Manitou Art Center and Executive Director Natalie Johnson, who once owned Black Cat Books, a bookstore her daughter had loved. Sherri also wanted a few of Kali’s sketches to be included.
The Manitou Springs Art Council got involved, as well as Concrete Couch Executive Director Steve Wood, Smokebrush Foundation for the Arts Creative Director Kat Tudor and Burton. Soon, other artists, community members and kids had joined the painting collective, turning it from a teen project into a community project. The volunteers gathered first thing in the morning for a couple of weeks to complete the project, funded by the Alberns.
“Bob and Sherri’s grief has been turned into a beautiful community project,” said Tudor, who helped re-create Kali’s images on the cement wall.
Kali, who went by the name Teyalora in her art, signed her works with TL. Signage mentioning her art name can be seen near the far west end of the mural. Sherri has imagined her daughter’s reaction to the revamped mural.
“I keep envisioning a big smile,” she said.
Contact the writer: 636-0270