The Guild, Oak Harbor High School’s student art club, paints a mural on the wall of a business on Pioneer Way in Oak Harbor this month. Photo by Daniel Warn/Whidbey News-Times

Students transform downtown wall

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room.

No, that’s not quite right.

Come April, people will be talking about the two elephants, not in the room but on Pioneer Way.

The Guild, Oak Harbor High School’s student art club, is transforming the white-paneled facade of Pioneer Way’s Sweet Rice restaurant with a mural designed by its students.

“It’s just this big blank space, so why not put something for people to see?” said Cydney Szypula, vice president of The Guild.

Kit Christopherson, faculty advisor for The Guild, said that his students showed a great aptitude for critical thinking when designing the mural.

He said his students wanted to put something on the building that would last, fit the current business, but also stand alone, calling the final product “a design-heavy piece.”

Szypula said the design was a group effort. The club split into four groups and each had to come up with a concept based around elephants for the Thai restaurant. The Guild collaborated from there to come up with a final design that everyone agreed on.

This process of review and critique is something that Szypula says she appreciates about the club.

“Honestly, it’s good to be in an environment where I can talk to people who give a knowledgable opinion of things, because they know what they are talking about and they can help me to learn and also build my abilities,” Szypula said. “It also has helped me gain more ground in the community as an artist.”

Yet the club doesn’t stop at personal development.

Recently, the students painted a mural for a Martin Luther King Jr. assembly and is always willing to work in the community, she said.

“It’s like a community outreach as well, because we do a lot of things for the public,” Szypula said. “Last year, we did the water tanks by the baseball fields.”

Szypula said she was proud of her work and the work of all the members in The Guild, but made sure to give credit where credit was due.

The project was the idea of Therese Kingsbury, a member of the city’s art commision. After receiving permission from the restaurant, Kingsbury brought the project to The Guild.

“She has a lot of projects going on and ideas for the community,” Szypula said. “This was one of them.”

Kingsbury, the newest member of the Oak Harbor Arts Commission, said she heard that Szypula was a talented artist and called her with the idea for the mural. Szypula, in turn, brought Kingsbury to a guild meeting to see if the club was interested in the project.

The Guild ended up assuming responsibility for the artwork, while the arts commission supplied the paint.

While Kingsbury was pitching the idea for the mural, she thought of a second project, one using “rain shadow” paint. The product, called Rainworks, only appears in the rain and remains in place for up to five months after application. It is safe for the environment and is considered a form of chalk art by the city.

Kingsbury said the art students became “really excited” about the invisible paint, taking the idea and running with it. As part of their project on Pioneer, the students have applied the paint on sidewalks with stencils of their own creation.

“They are doing a collaborative kind of ecological thing, where there are crabs and fish and seaweed and shrimp and stuff coming out of the storm drain,” Kingsbury said.

Ronald Eborada, president of The Guild, said that his peers elected him as their leader because of his passion for art, and said that teaming up with people like Kingsbury is exactly what makes the club tick.

“We like to create art for the community, around town and for our school to build awareness of our own club and show more art to the community — bring a little more color to it,” Eborada said.