Arts & Entertainment Community Education

Two In Tow & On The Go: Artondale student art show on display at Gig Harbor Civic Center

Posted on December 15th, 2023 By:

Now this is a fun column, you guys. Although … it’s a little bit different.

To copy our latest adventure, grab your kids/coat/keys and get out of the house by heading down to … Gig Harbor City Hall. Ha. You thought I was going to say Santa, didn’t you? I mean, the jolly ‘ol guy is cool and all, but have your children seen municipal office cubicles yet?!

Ha. I kid. (Actually, there’s a ton of local Santa/holiday cheer to take part in this weekend). But seriously, do add City Hall to your list because the public is invited to view a free art exhibit there created by local second-graders!

Is Wyatt among these special artists?! Yes, you caught me. Wyatt’s art joins about 18 other kiddos from Mrs. Oake’s second-grade class from Artondale Elementary School. The display features creative interpretations of the famous Japanese woodblock print Under the Wave Off Kanagawa, circa 1830, by artist Katsushika Hokusai. Local nonprofit Peninsula Hands On Art facilitated the project, along with countless others, through its popular school program that links kids to culturally authentic and professional-grade artist materials, mediums and instruction at no cost to elementary schools in the Peninsula School District.

Also known as The Great Wave, the print plays with the concepts of depth and perspective as part of the artist’s series Thirty-six Views of Mount FujiIn these student versions, the kids practiced shading techniques using warm and cool colors with pencil and oil pastels. I began volunteering with them since last year, and since that time we’ve also worked with clay, blotting ink, chalk and acrylic.

Mrs. Oake’s class was chosen because each child is unique and creative and beautiful – of course – but also because I’m the unofficial president of the perpetual procrastinators club and needed a quick-fix for a deadline I missed. You see, I’m currently neck-deep in a very special community project with Gig Harbor Now and city hall. But, September Tonya thought December Tonya could certainly have said mystery project ready for the holidays! Alas, she could not.

Except with two blank walls suddenly staring me down at the city’s main hub, I needed a replacement and fast! Luckily, I’m one of the Peninsula Hands On Art docents for Clara and Wyatt’s classrooms, and fellow docent/mama Kim Johnson and I had just completed a lesson for Mrs. Oake’s class. BOOM. Instant art show!

And I LOVE that Wyatt’s class emerged as the best quick-fix idea ever, because all students’ artwork is something to celebrate and appreciate in the larger community. In fact, another local set of Hokusai waves are on display right now, unrelated to anything I did, at the Key Center Library8905 Key Peninsula Highway North, in Lakebay. That collection showcases Mrs. Brooke’s 2nd grade class from Vaughn Elementary School.

Thankfully, for Gig Harbor, I got all the permissions* fairly quickly as well as help from the art group to purchase frames. Soon, the kids and I were hauling our ladder over to city hall to hang some art! The exhibit is free and open to the public throughout December from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday at city hall, located inside the Gig Harbor Civic Center at 3510 Grandview St.

The civic center is an interesting spot – in addition to being home to the city offices and city council, it also houses the Gig Harbor Police Department and Municipal Court. Finding the art inside the civic center is easy: Enter through the civic center’s main doors, head left past the courtroom, then turn right into the hallway. The colorful array of Great Waves are hanging in black frames on two sections of wall, on the left-hand side, across from city council chambers.

Quick mom-guilt note to say that I wasn’t able to include the waves from Clara’s class because of timing. When all these pre-show moments converged in November, her class had already taken their artworks home. Mrs. Oake’s class, meanwhile, had kept their art at school for a bit longer because we had to wait to glue on some name tags. Clara was a champ, though, about not feeling left out! In fact, she was my extra special big kid helper in the hanging process. And Wyatt was, too!

Peninsula Hands On Art

Peninsula Hands On Art — now in its 20th year — is a fantastic resource that works to instill self confidence in children about their artistic abilities. I’ve enjoyed my time volunteering with the organization, which works entirely off sponsorships and donations. Parent docents help lead the classroom lessons through quarterly group training sessions as well as a handy video (see the Great Wave video here) from local artists that help guide projects  from screens inside each classroom. The group offers four projects a year, per classroom, for 4,000 PSD kids in grades K-5. The videos often incorporate storytelling on the historical and cultural contexts behind each of the chosen project pieces in easy and accessible ways kids can understand, which I appreciate as a parent.

The Great Wave | Katsushika Hokusai, circa 1830. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Hokusai’s Great Wave

 Pop culture loves The Great Wave. The distinctive crest of Hokusai’s billowing sea is iconic even – and can be seen in everything from Build-A-Bear prints and Lego sets, to the tiny blue-and-white ocean emoji on your phone.

By design, woodblock prints can be mass produced to paper using ink and color. So it was interesting to learn that there’s actually quite a few original copies of the Great Wave floating around the world, mostly in museums and private collections. A New York art dealer recently told the Wall Street Journal that later prints of the Great Wave aren’t as valuable because the woodblock carving had been worn down after pressing so many copies. In those prints, apparently you can’t see the detail of the clouds in sky as well. Crazy!

FUN FACT #1: The Seattle Art Museum has one of those original prints right now in a special, limited-time exhibit on loan from Boston. Folks can see it through January 21, 2024. Here’s the info on how to get tickets to Seattle’s “Hokusai, Inspiration and Influence.”

FUN FACT #2: This fabulous article in ParentMap says where to score museum discounts locally, including at the Seattle Art Museum. But, first, the Gig Harbor community has its very own Great Waves right here in 2023. And how can you miss that?

From left to right: Artworks of Wyatt Turetzky and Benjamin Pavey, featuring cool and warm shading techniques with oil pastels

Hanging the Art

Wyatt, Clara and I got to work together one evening after school to hang all of the artworks. Yep, we’re just regular ‘ol art gallery installation … ists? Or, something like that 🙂 And these kids were actually the biggest helpers! And so were so many other city staff there who helped us maneuver the hanging wire systems (see below). They even opened up the police station to the kids for a quick tour of the fingerprint process! So cool!

*Special shoutouts and a HUGE THANKS to all the players involved:

Karmen Furer, Peninsula Hands On Art district coordinator and Queen Bee; Diane Bertram, city human resources assistant and Genealogy Extraordinaire; Rob Davis, public works’ operations division custodian and Nicest Guy Ever; and Scott Keely, public works clerk and Scheduling Wizard; Clara Turetzky, coolest daughter and impromptu hanger of art; and little Mr. Wyatt Turetzky, Artist and Super Awesome Kid. I may have added some titles 🙂 

See ya there!