Islanders who have glimpsed colorful children’s drawings in the windows of Vashon businesses this week might have noticed that the art, beyond being cute, also has a powerful message.
The artworks, created by third-grade students at Chautauqua Elementary School, are actually activist posters, calling on their viewers to step up to protect the fragile ecosystems of the Salish Sea. The posters — on view until June 17 at spots including Cafe Luna, Ruby Brink, The Hardware Store, Snapdragon, The Recess Lab, Island Queen, Vashon Bookstore, Gather, The Vashon Tea Shop, Herban Bloom, Minglement, and The Vashon Public Library— were all created in a Vashon Artists in Schools residency led by Britt Freda.
The residency was the culmination of a combined effort by third-grade teachers Margie Butcher, Paul Wahlen and Erin Calhoun to educate their students about issues related to the environment. For the past several months, the teachers have invited an impressive roster of eco-experts to visit their classrooms and discuss the plight of the Northwest’s threatened orca and salmon populations. These visitors included Amy Carey, director of Sound Action; Beka Economopoulos, executive director of the Natural History Museum; Tag Gornall, marine biologist and veterinarian; Whitney Neugebauer, director of Whale Scout, and representatives of Vashon Maury Island Land Trust and Vashon Nature Center.
The posters all have QR codes (a type of barcode) on them which, when scanned, can connect the viewer to a short audio recording of the student artist’s narrative about why the marine ecosystem should be protected.
“I love that the posters are interactive and that parents, friends and visitors can hear the resonance of the child’s voice calling us to action,” said Freda.
The posters can also be viewed through the Vashon Center for the Arts website. Vashon Artists in Schools, a 30-year strong partnership between Vashon Center for the Arts and the Vashon Island School District, pairs local artists with teachers in classroom-based residences, integrating art into other core subjects and providing students with multidisciplinary learning experiences.