Jemtegaard student-artists stick it to the school

Tape art project highlights community, personal stories

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category icon Schools, Washougal
The Jemtegaard Middle School Husky made from paint tape by Jemtegaard students Alexa Davidson and Paula Guerrero-Pineda. The students said they created the school's mascot because they wanted to show school spirit. (Contributed photo courtesy of Dani Allen)

In the hallways of Washougal’s Jemtegaard Middle School, art students have showcased the way they see their local communities by creating tape art murals of trees, skylines and even the school’s Husky mascot.

The students have joined the Tape Art movement, which has been spreading tape murals across the world since 1989.

The idea originated in Providence, Rhode Island, when artists discovered an ingenious way to create large-scale, collaborative drawings in public spaces by using tape.

Since then, artists have created more than 500 large, public tape-art works, as well as thousands of smaller drawings, everywhere from Tennessee to Japan.

The Washougal students’ theme for their school-based tape art project is the community of the Pacific Northwest, Washougal and Jemtegaard.

“I was really impressed with what the students came up with, and just their concepts of what they wanted on their school walls, and what was meaningful to them,” Jemtegaard art teacher Dani Allen said.

Seventh-grader Cale Larson created “A Couple of Trees,” a mural depicting four trees and a tree stump with an axe. In his written explanation of his piece, Larson said the artwork represents the local environment.

“… when we cut down, but don’t grow back, we will never see the beauty of trees and what they do to us,” Larson stated in his artist explanation. “It is basically a symbol of what our world does nowadays. Destroys, but does not fix.”

Allen, who has taught in the district for 11 years, said most students spent time preparing and planning their tape art projects.

Eighth-grader Ethan Cherry created a large-scale shoe design with the words “Keep treadin’ on,” and said the mural meant a lot to him.

“I was going through a very difficult time and my family members and friends kept saying that one saying, ‘Keep treadin’ on,'” Cherry said. “It was so inspiring to me, because I knew what they meant by that. And I knew times were rough, but if I tread through everything that was difficult in life, or hard, or something I couldn’t control that was bothering me — that if I kept ‘treading on,’ then I’ll get past all that and it will be OK.”

Allen said that she was impressed by the way other Jemtegaard students saw the artwork.

“Another (thing) that was extremely awesome, was that nobody vandalized the art,” she said. “Because it was done by the kids, they were all really impressed by it, so they didn’t want to take it down.”

Jemtegaard Principal David Cooke, presented the idea to Allen after seeing tape art inside a Gresham, Oregon, school.

“I really liked the idea, because being a new school, they didn’t want us to put anything on the walls besides tape,” Allen said. “We also thought it would liven up the school a little bit, because it seems a little institutional without any kid’s work on the walls.”

Everyone received the artwork as a positive addition to the building, “which you don’t always get with art,” Allen added.

The art teacher said she hopes that, over the summer, the school’s walls will be updated so that students can do this assignment every year without ruining the walls.

“It would be awesome to do it every year, and see what students come up with year after year,” Allen said.