Kathleen Sassara; Co-Content Editor
Recently, Sarah Powell’s Spanish II and IV classes embarked on a journey unique on the high school campus so far: two murals on the concrete walls surrounding the air inductors to the north and east of the building. The murals were inspired by elements from Hispanic culture: one by Mexican papel picado, which refers to artfully perforated sheets of tissue paper — such as the ones hanging outside Powell’s classroom — and one by juntos, the Spanish word for “together.”
Carolina Silva, a local artist and native Spanish speaker, has been leading the project in conjunction with Powell.
Silva has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in art history and spent two years away from her native country, Spain, during her college years to study art on a Fulbright scholarship in San Francisco. She is now a professional artist, with a portfolio ranging from ceramics to drawings to mural art.
After moving to the island, she applied to be on the list of artists associated with the Vashon Artists in Schools program run by the Vashon Center for the Arts, from which she was selected by Powell to head the mural project.
For Powell, the project has been long in the making.
“I have always enjoyed public art, and murals in particular, and I have wanted to do something with [them] for a while,” Powell said. “I think it says a lot about a community”
The idea behind the new murals is rooted in the Latin American history of mural art as a tool for social and political change, as well as the popularity of murals as an artistic medium across the Spanish-speaking world.
Powell saw the opportunity as a way to teach about Latin American culture and how the artists used their art to “transform or critique [their communities].”
The mural near the baseball field was completed by the students of the three Spanish II periods. They took inspiration from traditional Mexican papel picados, bunting made from squares of colorful paper cut into elaborate designs and tied together on a common string.
It was Silva who had the idea of drawing inspiration from the papel picados as a way to link the work of several classes of students into one cohesive mural and allow each student their own “flag.”
“They all have different images and different colors, but they all come together,” Silva said. “I like that idea of different things coming together, and then flags are always kind of festive and celebratory or happy.”
The second mural is located to the southwest of the gym, and was created by the students of the Spanish IV class. For this mural, Silva had a different plan.
“We were really trying to do something together, but I didn’t want to do that breaking up images because I think 11 people can really work together,” Silva said. “With that group there was a lot of dialogue between the students, which I like, and they came up with the word juntos.”
The mural is a combination of many images of Vashon, from the ferry to the natural world, they are all portrayed within the outline of the word juntos.
Silva’s hope is that the murals will be reflective of the community for years to come.
“A mural: it’s such a part of the place,” she said. “It doesn’t have any [single] artist; it doesn’t belong to anyone, but to everybody. I hope it has that spirit and everyone respects it [and] feels connected somehow to the message.”
For those who wish to see the works unveiled, Powell and Silva will be hosting an event to introduce the pieces to the community. The date is set for June 14 from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m., and is open for all who want to attend.