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St. Pete painter creates keepsake portraits for families of people who died from COVID-19

Margaret Bayalis asked her neighbors a week ago if they'd like a free painting of a loved one lost to COVID-19. The response was far greater than she expected.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Margaret Bayalis picked up a love of painting as a child. Now in her 70s, she’s using her skills to cheer up others.

“I think the self-expression, it’s just a really nice way to chill out and it’s something I feel like I can do pretty well,” said Bayalis, who's from St. Petersburg.

Portraits have always been her favorite thing to paint. Last week, she decided to focus her attention on painting portraits as keepsakes for families who have lost loved ones to the COVID-19 pandemic. Anyone who wants a portrait of a lost loved one will get one from Bayalis, who just wants to make people smile through tragedy.

“It’s given my work purpose,” she said. “Before I came up with this idea, I was having some issues with inspiration. I just felt sort of burnt out.”

So far, Bayalis has completed portraits of two women, Earlene and Lillie, and is working on a third, Marguerite, who died after just four days after getting COVID-19.

“I feel like I’m doing something positive for my community,” Bayalis said.

She initially broadcasted her intentions on the NextDoor app. She got six takers almost immediately. She hopes people outside of her neighborhood hear about her act of generosity.

“Any kind of art creates a connection. Somebody sees it and there is something about it that they connect to,” her husband John said. “The kind of art Margaret is creating creates a real connection between the people that are lost and the people who are still here and I think that’s why it’s very special.”

Both John and Margaret have art on display at the Woodfield Fine Art at 2253 Central Ave. If you’d like to have your loved one’s portrait painted by Bayalis, email her at margaret@bayalistudio.com

You can also find her work at her online studio.

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