Sunset Elementary School’s Art Walk puts docent program on display

June 5, 2012

By Lillian O'Rorke

Libby Yoon (center) picks out some flowers to plant in her newly painted potting container. By Lillian Tucker

“See art; do art; eat art” read promotional posters for Sunset Elementary School’s annual Art Walk, and that is exactly what attendees did at the May 29 event.

“It’s not just looking at students’ art, it’s a hands-on experience,” Principal Wayne Hamasaki said. “It’s a great way to showcase the fantastic talents of our students.”

The school halls were transformed into exhibition spaces as parents and students wandered around looking at displays of glass tiles and still life drawings. But the event also gave people a chance to create.

At the entrance, students worked on a collective fish mobile by twisting wire and adding beads to form fish. Each year, the children work on creating one large piece of art during the art walk. This year, coordinator Juliette Ripley-Dunkelberger put an eco-friendly spin on the project by collecting the school’s leftover electrical wire to use for the giant mobile.

“We try and do a project so that everyone who comes gets a chance to do something,” she said.

In the cafeteria, students were invited to craft a number of projects that they were free to take home, like bottle cap jewelry and reusable linen bags.

“You can use them for a lot of things and they are really fun to make,” 8-year-old Clare Marshall said as she colored a peace sign on her bag.

Many of the booths were run by parent volunteers, but they were not the only ones lending a hand. The culinary arts program at Tiger Mountain Community High School made the cookies and frosting for an art station that invited students to make complementary colors by mixing red, yellow and blue frosting.

As a parent and artist, Ripley-Dunkelberger used her connections to bring in Museo Art Academy, Smart with Art and local artist Judy Salas to host craft booths.

“It’s just great to incorporate the Issaquah community into our school,” parent volunteer Ellen Yoon said. “Kids love creating art, but as parents, we don’t set it up for them because it’s messy at home. So, it’s great for them to do it here with friends.”

“It’s their favorite activity here at school. They just love the arts and the self-expression that comes with it,” said Tricia Bertsch, who has one child in kindergarten and one in second grade at Sunset.

She said her son Caiden, 8, wore a T-shirt he spent all day working on in honor of the evening’s art walk.

“You get to see all the artwork and you get to do lots of art,” Caiden said.

He said one of his favorite projects this year was when his class got to weave two different photos together, one serious and one silly, to form portraits of themselves.

“You can be creative,” he said. “There are no mistakes.”

Caiden’s class did the photo-weaving project to study the concept of abstraction, one of six art concepts the second-graders studied this year through the Art Docent Program. While Hamasaki said teachers try to incorporate art into lesson plans, the school does not have a designated art teacher.

That’s where Art Docent comes in. Paid for by the PTA, 40 parent volunteers worked this year to prepare and teach lessons to their designated classes. Focusing on different elements and principles of art, art vocabulary and art criticism, lessons vary by grade.

Kindergarteners study things like the color wheel and storytelling with art, while those in first grade learn about line and texture. Second-graders work on elements like positive and negative space.

In third grade, students try their hand at native arts and in fourth grade, the children learn about atmospheric perspectives and start to work with glass. By fifth grade, the students are exploring different media, like photography, sculpture and printmaking.

“The teachers are awesome with letting us tie it in with curriculum,” Ripley-Dunkelberger said.

She said so far this year the parent docents had totaled nearly 1,000 volunteer hours.

“If you don’t have an art docent for your child’s class they might not have that type of art all year,” Yoon said. “It’s such an important thing, but it’s just so upsetting that there isn’t enough funding.”

Lillian Tucker: 392-6434, ext. 242, or Comment at

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