Dig Deep, Rise Up, Branch Out: Creating Murals for the New Evergreen High School

The summer session of Design your [Neighbor]hood (DYH) is now in full swing! This year, we’re working with students from the newly-reestablished Evergreen High School to create not one, but TWO murals in just four quick weeks!

This fall, the formerly autonomous Arts and Academics Academy (AAA), Technology, Engineering, and Communications School (TEC), and Health and Human Services High School (HS3), will join together to become Evergreen High School (EHS). In an effort to bolster school spirit and encourage campus unity, the DYH teens will be painting two murals outside the main entrance of EHS.

The teens decided that they want their mural to be unique, inspirational, and welcoming. Participant Kimberli explained, “This project is important because we can show what we want for our new community and environment, for people to visualize it. By us participating in this program, I believe that we are showing that we care for our future, and that we all are here to support each other and build on and make a stronger community.”

The theme for this first week of the DYH program is discovery. The teens explored the Evergreen campus to check out the existing murals and record their observations. Then they debated the strengths and weaknesses of each mural, and how that might inform their own project. The students also discussed what makes powerful imagery, drawing parallels between visual metaphors and figurative language.

AAA mural

The group thought AAA’s mural was highlighting creativity, by showing different types of arts.

TEC mural

The theme for TEC’s mural is individuality, which showcases the unity present within the school.

HS3 mural

The teens identified the theme of HS3’s mural as diversity – celebrating everyone’s cultures.

Participant Mark described his first few days with DYH:

“We went to go see the three murals from the three different schools at Evergreen, and that made me realize how important art can be to someone, or how much it can impact someone. I never really focused on the murals as much as I did yesterday, and when the class analyzed it, it made it clearer to me why people do art. I feel like this program is going to give me a bunch of new experiences with art. Today we were discussing our ideas of what our mural should have, and we came up with three ideas: the first was to be unique, the second was to be inspirational, and the last was to be welcoming. My partner and I are focusing on an idea for creating a feeling of welcome because we think people need to feel that or see that when they walk around the Evergreen campus. A welcoming feeling should be the first priority for a school. Now we are designing ideas of what our mural should look like, and then later we are going to present it to the class to persuade them that our idea could be the one to be put up as a mural.”

The whole group is approaching the project with enthusiasm and earnestness. The students are, as Kimberli described, “looking forward to meeting new people, and hearing their ideas of what they want the mural to be, and getting started on it!”

Evergreen crest mural


~The Exposure Triangle~

Each student must hit an total hourly quota to receive their end-of-the-program stipend. Noah offers to show up early on Saturday and teach a photography tutorial to all willing students. Phoenix, Esu, and Noah arrive at noon on Saturday ready to learn.

The three corners of the “The Exposure Triangle” represent aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Balancing the exposure is important in order to collect all the necessary information in a photo. Through manipulating the three variables in play, the photographer has the ability to arrive at many different outcomes…



The Fresh Smells of Paint

The Student’s Designer Toolkits have been laid aside. We move all existing furniture into the center of the room. A furniture island has been created. Nothing is obstructing the brushes and rollers paths to all four walls.

Between Gwen and Noah (but mostly Gwen) we have: rollers, roller handles, roller extensions, paint trays, paint tray sleeves, tarps, drop cloths, painting rags, putty knifes, measuring tapes, triangles, straight edges, brushes, buckets, smaller buckets, and lots and lots of tape!

Jesse and Christian join us from Olson Kundig. Lindsay comes from SAM. The students are focused and ready and painting!


Teen Room Ready For Change: Preproduction Painting excitement !)

Gwen has arranged one of their friends (Tracy) to join the class today. Tracy is a professional painter. Tracy arrives and is welcomed into our class. They take a look at the Teen Room and go over the details of what we will need to do in order to successfully paint the room.  Tracy talks about materials needed, oil vs acrylic paint, primer, sanding, and taping the walls. We all decide it is a good idea to prep the mural walls with the color that will be most present in the new mural, “blue.”

Gwen leaves to pick up supplies at Home Depot. It is a “beautiful” day for early spring in Seattle and the class goes outside to the Bitter Lake playground.

After everyone returns to the Teen Room, Gwen passes out fresh sandpaper and the team sands down the mural walls.

Noah offers to put together a film for the Teen Room’s transformative painting process. Noah asks the class if any of the students would be interested in learning the basics for filming and fill the role of cinematographer. Phoenix, Esu, Kamiya, and Melissa all seems a little shy but also curious and excited about the idea.

Noah takes “before” photos of the Teen Room. The murals, colors, and furniture items will all be changing soon…

Melissa photo documents Kamiya and Phoenix jumping for excitement!


Murals, Materials, Budget (And a little more daylight!)

Joy: Winter is growing old. These Seattle days are brighter!

Even more joy: The students are proving their amazing design talent! Staying on schedule and finishing each design step is becoming more integral each day. The students are persisting and impressing everyone with their confident design skills!

Kamiya and Phoenix put together a polished budget and purchase list. The list includes couches, lamps, rugs, books, games, cushions and much more. The students carefully pick out furniture that will make the room complete and enjoyable.

Melissa calmly creates an amazing patterned mural design during our journal exercise. The class is super impressed! Esu adapts Melissa’s mural into our proposed color palette.  Esu keeps in mind the dimensions, function, and colors of the room. Using Melissa’s original design as inspiration, Esu creates two murals to cover both the East and West walls. The two patterned murals are similar but also successfully reflect their own immediate space.

Gwen, Satpreet, Noah, and Lindsay begin recording all the necessary materials to remake the Teen Room!


Floor Plans Continued and Refined!

Journal Prompt: What’s the thing you are most excited about changing in the room?

Esu focuses their excitement toward specific items: “Lighting, lighting ornaments, chairs, couches, wall color.”

Kamiya Focuses their interests towards general functionality:  “More usable, make room work efficiently.”

Based on a to scale plan drawing of the rooms shape and perimeter, Esu and Kamiya use transparent drafting paper to continue working out ideas. They are asked to consider space, movement of patrons, functions of objects, size of objects, and individual activities within the space.

Kamiya and Esu both have a few refined iterations on paper. Now they focus on the common objects. Each student traces their couch, TV, table, books shelf, and lamps. With this trace they cut out each object and color in the piece with a distinct representative color. The objects are now free to be moved around the floor plan for further refinement of space and function. The students present!



Floor Plans

Layout Activity

(Step 1) 2 minute floor plan sketch of a new Teen Room layout. Go!

(Step 2) Turn the page in your notebook. 2 minute floor plan sketch of a different Teen Room layout. Go!

(Step 3) Repeat Step 2!

(Step 4) 60 seconds, Last one!

Satpreet begins the class with this quick brainstorm sketch exercise. The students produce exciting results.

Important ideas are expressed across the various iterations. The students take turns presenting their sketch plans to the class. This is great practice for communicating their brainstorms both verbally and visually. The class is energetic and ready to dive into a more refined approach.