Laura Yu, whose "Mom and Peace" is featured on the cover of the Arts Walk map, loves animals even more than she loves art.
Yu of Lacey has nurtured both passions since childhood and combines them in her work, using layers of paper and colored pencils to make low-relief images of otters, pandas, wolves and more.
“I do endangered species because I feel for them,” she told the Olympian. “I love animals more than people. They can’t talk. They can’t drive away from a bad situation. They rely on us for kindness, and they give kindness.”
“Mom and Peace,” in which a sea otter cradles two pups, will be on display Friday at Olympia City Hall as part of the 56th Arts Walk, the twice-yearly event that fills downtown Olympia’s shops and streets with art, spectacle and visitors.
Though Yu has been creating low-relief paper works and showing them at Arts Walk for nearly two decades, the work she created for the cover is the only piece she’ll show this spring.
Her mind has not been on her art much in recent months, she said. Her beloved Schnauzer, Molly Grace, whom she and a neighbor rescued from a puppy mill, died in February, and the loss is still very much with her.
“I just loved her so much,” said Yu, who works as a substitute paraeducator for the Olympia and Tumwater school districts. “She and I were so connected. I called her my daughter because we were so alike.”
Her deep feeling for animals at risk got the attention of the jury that commissioned her to create the cover image for the map.
“That was one of the things the jury liked, especially with the tie-in to Procession of the Species,” organizer Angel Nava told the Olympian. (The procession, a celebration of the natural world, is Saturday, in conjuction with Arts Walk.)
Yu, who graduated from the University of California Santa Barbara with a double major in studio art and environmental studies, illustrates her life with stories as clearly as she illustrates animals with colored paper and colored pencils.
She grew up in Southern California, moving to South Sound in 1999, but the pivotal memories she shares come from three months her family spent in Taiwan in 1968, when she was 12 years old.
While in Asia, the Yu family went to Japan to visit friends, and a friend of her father’s took her to the largest toy store in Tokyo.
“He said, ‘You can have anything you want,’ ” she said. “What I picked was a tablet of paper and these colored pencils.”
She showed the box of pencils, among those she uses in her work to this day. “I love the colors, and I just feel comfortable with them,” she said.
The other memory she recounted was of her and her mother walking through the streets of Taiwan.
“It was raining, and I had an umbrella, and we were going to cross the street,” Yu said. “There was a stray doggie next to me, and I said, ‘Mom, I need to put the umbrella over the dog so it won’t get wet.’
“That’s how much I love animals.”
What: Yu of Lacey, who creates low-relief images of endangered animals, created “Mom and Peace,” the subtle image of an otter family featured on the cover of the Arts Walk map. “Mom and Peace” will be on display Friday only before joining the city’s permanent collection.
When: 5-10 p.m. Friday
Where: Olympia City Hall, 601 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia