Christina Brady examines Oak Harbor Public Schools student art at a temporary gallery on Pioneer Way. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

Christina Brady examines Oak Harbor Public Schools student art at a temporary gallery on Pioneer Way. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

Downtown building transformed into student art gallery

Oak Harbor art teachers have long been searching for another way to display student works outside of a one-night show in a school cafeteria

“The idea of having a student gallery on Pioneer goes way back before us,” said high school art teacher Kit Christopherson standing next to Lowell Sipes, another art teacher.

But it was Christopherson and Sipes who took the reins when that exact opportunity presented itself. Last Wednesday the community got the chance to experience the fruits of their labor at the transformed space where Quilters Workshop used to be.

The owners of the building, the Low Income Housing Institute, will eventually knock it down to make way for a new affordable housing development, but in the meantime they thought it might be put to good use. So the leadership at LIHI reached out to the school district.

“I knew right away who would be interested,” said Superintendent Lance Gibbon.

The teachers wanted the work to be seen by people outside of the school system— and, according to Gibbon, many people outside of the school system wanted to see the work. He said that, as word spread about several high school artists winning state and national awards recently, he started getting questions about where it could be seen or even purchased.

Paintings, jewelry, sculptures, hand-made guitars, photographs and other types of art will be available for viewing and purchase at various times at the building across from China Harbor on Southeast Pioneer Way.

Over 200 pieces from fifth through 12th graders are on display until mid-June. Those interested in purchasing pieces may make an offer that will be sent to the students and their families.

The process of setting up and maintaining a gallery is also a valuable learning experience for the students, Christopherson said.

If all goes well, Gibbon said, he will look into the possibility of finding another more permanent location for student art to be displayed.

The gallery is also an opportunity for Christopherson to shift some of the focus he’s spent on just teaching technical skills toward incorporating lessons about being an artist outside of school.

“I’m trying to teach them how to integrate their talent and how they think with the world,” he said.

n The gallery will be open 5-7 p.m. Fridays, 4-6 p.m. Saturdays and periodically during the week, as volunteers are available.

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