KEARNEY — Art in the most unusual places always has intrigued Ashton Masek.

So when she and friends painted a mural in sidewalk chalk on a downtown Lincoln parking garage wall, it sparked an interest in creating their own style of art for the community.

“I’ve always had an interest in graffiti on trains and different public art installations in really unconventional locations — art that’s somewhere it doesn’t belong,” said the 17-year-old Masek.

In November 2017, Masek and friends started painting a mural on a brick wall in the alley behind Suite Child in downtown Kearney. Five months later the mural, which says “Stand Out, Be Bold,” was done.

“It was just a spur-of-the-moment decision. It was something my friends and I started doing and realized we enjoyed doing it,” Masek said.

And Project Paint, a way for the teens to express themselves, was born.

For her community service work Masek has been named the recipient of the 2019 Kearney Hub Freedom Award Youths Who Care.

Kearney High School counselor Jason Owens nominated Masek for the award, calling her a “selfless” student.

“The countless hours she has put in our community through school organizations, as well as her Project Paint, is nothing short of amazing,” he said in an email to the Hub. “Her organization of so many events and projects has made our community a better place to live.”

In June 2018, Masek and friends painted a second mural in Kearney on the side of Salon Eleven.27 in downtown Kearney. They also restored the Lincoln mural, and made a second one, again with chalk.

“We’re planning on going back this September to actually paint it and make it more permanent,” she said of the first mural.

Last week, Masek and members of Youth Leadership Kearney program painted a mural on the side of the Jackson Hewitt building at 115 W. 21st St. as part of their service project to promote kindness on social media.

“Our hope is that people will share it on social media,” she said.

Without her friends, Masek said none of the murals would be possible.

In addition to being an artist, Masek is busy at KHS where she is a junior and active with Student Council, DECA and the student magazine ECHO. She also works as a graphic and marketing events intern at the Kearney Area Chamber of Commerce.

She would like to be a graphic designer someday.

This summer Masek will be a day camp instructor at Kearney’s Cottonmill Park.

She attributes her active lifestyle to the example set by her parents, Jay and Nikki.

“I’m not good at relaxing and I don’t like not having a purpose for my day. I just don’t like to be bored,” Masek said. “We have so much time to live our lives so you might as well maximize the time that you have, and if you’re able to help people in the process that’s huge.”