April 15, 2010

​New sculpture under way at TDW
Concept encompasses student works

By Keri Brenner
The Dalles Chronicle

North Wasco County school officials gave the green light for local contractors to begin fabricating a new outdoor stainless steel sculpture for The Dalles Wahtonka High School.

​“I love it,” said school board member LeAnn Ellett in making a motion last week to accept the sculpture as a gift to the district and to allow its creation to move forward. “I think it’s a great idea.” A May 1 unveiling ceremony for the artwork is planned at the high school in conjunction with a 7 p.m. live music program, said Debby Jones, coalition coordinator for YouthThink, project sponsor.

“We wanted to create something lasting that embodies the theme we covered in Challenge Day,” said Jones. Challenge Day refers to an October event where 300 kids and 80 adults spent a day learning techniques to “Be the Change,” after the Mahatma Gandhi quote, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.

​”YouthThink, a community coalition, is allocating $15,000 in federal Drug-Free Communities grant money to finance the sculpture project, Jones said. Ellett’s motion passed unanimously, although it left the actual location of the sculpture vague in order to give district Facilities Director Dennis Whitehouse some latitude on siting the piece. “I want to make sure we get the appropriate space,” Whitehouse said. He also said he may need to alter the solar lighting design plans to discourage vandalism. Three professional visual and literary artists — Kristin Walrod, Shelley Toon Hight and Susan Murrell — created the sculpture design and inscription using ideas from students. Ideas were gathered in a series of Discovery High School and The Dalles Wahtonka High School classroom sessions after the Challenge Day and continuing through to spring term.

​On a no-school Friday, March 5, the artists held a Community Studio Day where students could further express their ideas on “Be the Change” in written word, poems, paper cut-outs and other art exercises. Columbia Gorge Arts in Education financed the artists’ residencies, which lasted from the October Challenge Day through to gathering students’ ideas and then creating the sculpture design and inscription, according to Leith Gaines, Arts in Education Director. Gaines and the artists presented the school board with the design last week. It features laser-cut scallops and loops that are interlaced to represent a mountain, a path, sun and sky. Dimensions of the sculpture will be about 5 feet tall, 9 feet wide and 3 feet deep.Inscribed on one of the panels will be the words: “I am my own hero. My future has no boundaries.

​”Two steel panels will be joined at the side ends and curved in the center to create a small interior grassy space, designed to be lit at night by solar lights.Board members said they were impressed. “Art is a good thing in a student community,” board member Brian Stahl said in voting for the motion.Board President Ernie Blatz said he would support establishing a tradition of having graduating seniors at the high school design sculptures to grace the school grounds. “I think it’s great,” he said. Jones said she hopes the sculpture serves as “a chance for the community to come together.”