STANWOOD — In the late 1970s, Jack Archibald signed up for a stained glass night class at Stanwood High School. He needed windows for a house he bought on Camano Island.
That night sparked a 40-year career as a stained glass artist.
“I was totally hooked on glass, and never went back to the class,” he said.
Since then, the Camano Island artist has created 65 public art installations around the country, including dozens in the Pacific Northwest. Recently, Archibald completed a commission for four stained glass murals at the new Stanwood High School.
“Stanwood is where I got accidentally started taking the night class,” he said. “For me, it was pretty heartwarming to come full circle like that.”
The colorful pieces, geometric and abstract, reflect Archibald’s contemporary style.
“People can use their imagination to see what it is,” he said.
Two murals, called “Stillaguamish Valley Sunrise,” adorn the outside windows of the school’s entryway. A third mural hangs between the school offices and Performing Arts Center, and a fourth in the library.
The murals were installed in December and February.
Details can be seen up-close: bubbles, ripples, lines and other textures in the glass tiles.
Archibald sources much of his glass from Fremont Antique Art Glass in Seattle. He orders colored glass, called flashed glass, that can show cool blues on one side and warm ambers on the other.
With the special glass, the murals will look different inside and outside, or at day and night, he said.
Archibald said he hopes the students and staff at Stanwood High School will appreciate the new art.
“I do like to think that public art matters,” he said.
The state has made it a priority to bring art to public places. When the state constructs a building, one-half of 1% of the cost goes to public art, according to the state Arts Commission. Schools can apply for a commissioned artwork.
The commission for the Stanwood High School murals was $133,000.
Since 1989, Archibald has completed 10 projects for the Arts Commission, about one every three years.
“It speaks to his longevity — that is pretty amazing,” said Michael Sweney, program manager for the commission’s Art in Public Places program.
Archibald said he has been working to bring a “critical mass” of art to the area.
“I think a lot of people could care less. I think that’s art in America,” he said. “You like to think you’re making inroads.”
When he signed up for the class at Stanwood High School more than 40 years ago, he had no art training. He had been working various jobs from bus driver to a hospital orderly, and was a “hippie and lost soul” when he moved to Camano Island.
The class was part of a “glass craze” in that era, he said. For him, glass was more than just a fad.
“It changed my life totally,” he said.