Key Peninsula Middle School students help art mural come to life

April 9, 2014 

Two Waters Arts Alliance after-school art club artist Jessica Smeall spent several weeks in January at Key Peninsula Middle School on a project with students from grades six through eight as they created an “upcycled” stewardship pole.

Professional artist Billy Gray guided kids in February as they created an outdoor mural that showcased the flora and fauna of Key Peninsula to grace walls outside the entrance of the school.

Professional artist Kathleen Gray and volunteers Kathy Barrett, Sue Stuhaug, Stephanie Flintoff, Molly Duttry, Molly Swensen and Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department volunteer Brittany Langdon all helped.

I had fun watching and photographing them early in the project. Very serious stuff!

When I was tied up with other subjects, Duttry, a Peninsula High School junior, came to the rescue. She took photos, collected quotes and even helped out on the mural. The kids in the art club worked on the project every Tuesday for five weeks.

“The kids were all excited to be finishing up adding the last details,” said Duttry, who collected many of the following comments.

Eighth-grader Gwen Clark had fun with the mural project.

“It was really cool to work outside my comfort zone and use paints,” Clark said.

Classmate Sabriana Carey enjoyed painting the mural.

“I don’t usually use paints, so I enjoyed doing something I’m not used to,” Carey said.

“I like this project because, in the beginning, I did not know how to paint at all,” said eighth-grader Aerrow Cruz. “But this project taught me how to paint and have fun while hanging out with friends. The project also teaches teamwork and working together to accomplish a common goal without worrying about the little things.”

Eighth-grader Emelia Cobb also worked on the mural.

“This project is one of the funnest things I have done in a while,” Cobb said. “I have never worked with paint like this before, but it was nice to try something new. I got to show and use my artisticness in a different way. I really enjoyed this, and I hope for more things to do in the future.”

TWAA president Molly Swensen found it inspiring to watch students in the program.

“They were taught the elements of painting a large-size mural, from transferring patterns, putting down base color to putting on finishing detail,” Swensen said. “Some students told me they had never done any painting or drawing as large as this, and they learned a lot. The KPMS mural will be a legacy for the school, as well as the students, for years to come.”

Sixth-grader Johnathan Beal enjoyed the process.

“I like doing things like this because I’m doing it for other people and not just me,” Beal said.

Classmate Sarah Catterall enjoyed the creative aspect of it.

“I want to be an artist,” Catterall said. “This made me want to be one. I hope it inspires potential artists to pursue their dreams.”

Eighth-grader Jeatonn Abbott wanted to go through the program to learn how to make recyclable art.

“I love and will do art for a long time,” Abbott said.

Classmate Sabriona Corey was there to learn more about other artists and different styles.

And Gwendolyn Clark loves to expresses her feelings through art.

“To me, ‘Upcycling to the extreme’ is the motto of this session, and I love watching these young artists become inspired with creating by reusing materials headed to the waste stream,” said Smeall, a lead TWAA artist. “The word editor thinks ‘upcycling’ is not a word, but this is not recycling. I really like calling it upcycling — giving things new life.”

Eighth-grader Andrea Daly said art is her life.

“It makes up everything,” she said. “Without it, everything would be bleak and in need of color. Art club lets me be me and express myself.”

And sixth-grader Kadynce Soucie felt it was a fun, messy task.

“When I was thinking I was done ... the teachers and volunteers said to add more detail,” Soucie said. “So I did and it made the painting much more interesting, detailed and even better. The project in the making was awesome.”

Chloe Duttry, another sixth-grader, also had fun with the mural.

“I learned a lot and had a great time,” Duttry said.

Meanwhile, seventh-grader Savannah Wood wanted to express her feelings about art.

“I have the time on Tuesdays and learn new things every week,” she said.

Brittany Langdon volunteered from the health department because she enjoys working with kids on environmental topics.

“They are so inspiring that they have the ability to open my mind further,” Langdon said. “I’m grateful for this opportunity.”

Artis Billy Gray said he thoroughly enjoyed his time.

“We had a lot of fun, yet worked hard,” he said. “Students learned a few things about handling acrylic paints, various brushes and blenders with the use of light, shadow and color. All in all, a great experience.”

That says it all.

Hugh McMillan is a longtime freelance writer for The Peninsula Gateway. He can be reached at 253-884-3319 or by email at hmcmnp1000@

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