Volunteers help with Gastineau's mural project

Posted: Friday, May 09, 2008

At least 30 volunteers have helped in constructing, designing and painting Gastineau Elementary School's mural, which was started in November and will become a permanent part of the school's gym on completion.

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Courtesy Of Heather Ridgway
Courtesy Of Heather Ridgway

According to Heather K. Ridgway, an art teacher who created the first design in a scale model, the initial idea for the mural came from Dirk Miller, Gastineau Elementary School's physical education teacher, who wished to reinforce the art curriculum by using the elements of Northwest Coast Native design in his classes.

"Run from the ovoid to the U-form," Miller might say in his gym classes. "Stop at the S-curve and do five jumping-jacks!"

The mural's central panel was designed by Douglas artist Ray Watkins. The sun was designed by Donald Gregory and Heather K. Ridgway. The Gastineau lettering was chosen, projected, and painted by Mariana Goodwin, Rally students and staff, and Paula Savikko's second-grade class.

"The Gastineau school mascot is the Eagle, so it seemed appropriate to create a central panel honoring school spirit in this way," Ridgway said.

There are 41 panels total, spanning over 1,200 square feet of painted canvas.

There is another title panel that will balance the "Gastineau" letters, which says, "X'at'ak.aan," Tlingit for, "The Village Behind the Island," referring to Mayflower Island.

"This name was taught to us by Jessica Chester, Jennifer Scott, Patty McNeil, Helen Watkins, David Katzeek and other local Native elders," Ridgway said. "We're excited to have a Tlingit name to go with our design."

Ridgway thanks Watkins, for helping make the center Eagle panel fit with traditional Tlingit rules of design, and Sealaska, for sharing the skills, love and labor of Gregory, who has attended Monday Mural Painting Clubs for 12 weeks, helping to refine the design, lug 4x8 panels around, and lead students in transferring the design and painting it onto these large canvases.

"This project would not have been possible without the help of dedicated Gastineau families, staff and friends," Ridgway said. "Many showed up for all eight of the seven-hour volunteer sessions, base coating and adhering the canvas to the panels."

According to Ridgway, Humberto, Odilon, Gary and other facilities staff were helpful and patient with the process. Good Hardware, Valley Lumber and Valley Paint were also helpful, she said.

Those interested in buying extra extruded foam insulation (pink and blue 4x8-foot boards) can contact Ridgway for more information. They will charge $12 each for the 20 slightly used panels to help pay for other materials.

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