Little birdhouses for Washougal’s soul

Jemtegaard students add to public art displays outside of city hall

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Jemtegaard Middle School eighth grader Annabella Arriola and Jemtegaard art teacher Dani Allen pose next to the birdhouses painted by Arriola and nine other classmates during Club 8, an afterschool program.

Home to several community-created public art forms, Washougal City Hall stands out with its golden black heron sculpture, birdhouses decorated by community members and Capt. William Clark bronze bust.

The latest art addition is another set of birdhouses — this time, crafted by middle school students.

The Washougal Arts and Culture alliance (WACA) recently partnered with Club 8, an after-school program at Jemtegaard Middle School, to add more handmade, painted birdhouses to the perimeter of the city hall parking lot.

The middle school artists’ creations were honored by city officials on June 23, and will accompany the community decorated birdhouses, which first popped up at city hall in 2016.

Dani Allen, a Jemtegaard Middle School art teacher, thanked members of WACA for helping the middle school students get the bird houses and create art for the community.

Allen, WACA members, Washougal City Councilman Paul Greenlee and Jemtegaard Middle School student Annabella Arriola attended the artist reception in honor of the new birdhouses and highlighted the web of collaborations that allows community art to flow out from city hall to parks around town.

Former Washougal Councilwoman Joyce Lindsay, still a WACA member, attended the reception and said art can be created at any level.

“The birdhouses are a darling addition from the students,” Lindsay said.

Lindsay, who resigned from her council position and moved to Bellingham, Washington, to be closer to family in late May, said the art in Washougal will entice her back to the city for frequent visits.

Arriola, 12, said she started her project aiming to paint a sunset, but switched directions when she didn’t have the proper colors. Instead, the middle school student painted a rainbow on her birdhouse and said she had a fun time painting while spending time with friends from Club 8, a group she intends to rejoin next school year.

The collaboration between WACA and Washougal Parks and Recreation board members has aided Allen in her quest to get students involved with community art, the art teacher said, adding that her students also painted a city-sponsored mural depicting fish and softball/baseball players at Lower Hathaway Park this year.

Shirley Scott and Janice Ferguson, members of the Washougal Parks Board and WACA, were in attendance at the birdhouse unveiling.

Ferguson, who co-founded WACA, said her husband, George Gross, built about 20 wooden birdhouses for the project.

The group is working with Allen to organize a time next school year when the students can paint another piece of art near Washougal City Hall and the Washougal Community Library.

“We have some projects lined up for the kids,” Scott said. “It’ll give them a little piece of their own town.”

Allen said the Club 8 class promotes community involvement. In addition to the public art, the students also made hats and scarves to donate to homeless people in Vancouver last winter.

“A major goal of Jemtegaard Middle School is equity,” Allen said. “We want to ensure that all of our kids get access to opportunities for academic, social emotional and physical growth.”

The staff at Jemtegaard has realized many students do not have access to sporting clubs and extracurricular activities due to the cost, Allen said.

“(Club 8) allows students to explore new ideas and develop skills they may not have had,” she said. “Most importantly, it allows students to build relationships with adults through an activity. These adults are not only staff, but parents and invested community members.”

The club is offered after school, twice a week. To increase accessibility, a bus will drop children near their home in five different locations after the club is over.

Allen said more than 100 students participate weekly in the club.

“We have many talented artists at (Jemtegaard),” she added. “My kids would love to show their love of art and appreciation to the community by beautifying the city. … We look forward to giving back to the community through our art.”

The birdhouses decorated my Jemtegaard Middle School students that hang on posts near the Washougal city hall garden, Saturday, June 23.
The birdhouses decorated my Jemtegaard Middle School students that hang on posts near the Washougal city hall garden, Saturday, June 23. The birdhouses are a project by the Washougal Arts and Culture Alliance (WACA) to bring more community art to Washougal. Photo