On Monday, Bruce Morser installed the latest flock of fourth-grade birds at Vashon Center for the Arts, both inside of the arts center and outside, in VCA’s breezeway. Outside, the birds are sharing space with portraits created by local artist West McLean, for the Vashon Remembrance Project — an idea, Morser said, that McLean thought was great. Morser, an award-winner local illustrator, VCA board member and Vashon Artists in Schools teaching artist, has worked with fourth-grade students at Chautauqua on the annual project for the past four years (Madeline Morser Photos).

On Monday, Bruce Morser installed the latest flock of fourth-grade birds at Vashon Center for the Arts, both inside of the arts center and outside, in VCA’s breezeway. Outside, the birds are sharing space with portraits created by local artist West McLean, for the Vashon Remembrance Project — an idea, Morser said, that McLean thought was great. Morser, an award-winner local illustrator, VCA board member and Vashon Artists in Schools teaching artist, has worked with fourth-grade students at Chautauqua on the annual project for the past four years (Madeline Morser Photos).

Fourth-Grade Birds Migrate Back to Arts Center

In all, there are 90 student artworks on view.

A flock of magnificent birds, created by fourth-graders, is once again on display in the breezeway of Vashon Center for the Arts; this time, movingly surrounding Vashon Remembrance Project paintings created by islander West McLean.

More bird portraits also fill a wall inside the atrium of VCA; in all, there are 90 student artworks on view.

The long-running fourth-grade bird project — a collaboration between Vashon Center for the Arts’ Vashon Artists in Schools and Chautauqua Elementary School — has continued throughout the pandemic. In 2020, the birds were all created at home by 4th-graders learning remotely, but this year, the artistic process took place in a hybrid fashion.

Bruce Morser, an award-winner local illustrator and VCA board member, led the program for the fourth consecutive year, at first working with students to create artworks online. But midway through the project, about 65% of the students returned to in-person learning — and painting birds — four mornings a week.

Morser credited the dedication of four Chautauqua teachers, Shanon Browne, Chris Muller, Karen Barich and Matthew Chasan, for keeping the students on track through all the changes that happened as they created the works of art.

“I feel very lucky, as the Vashon Artist in the Schools instructor, to be able to work with all the fourth graders,” Morser said. “I’m always amazed at the originality of each image and how they not only visually capture their bird species but also show where and how each bird lives. Every one of these birds has real character.”

Morser said he loved working with the students throughout the project, both remotely and in person.

“I actually enjoyed learning to teach both ways, and interestingly, now that all the birds are flocked together at VCA, I can’t tell which were done at home, and which at school,” he said.


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