Creating art for recovery fund is healing for MPHS students

MARYSVILLE — Carly McCartney remembers the days after the shootings at Marysville Pilchuck High School as filled with emotion.

McCartney, 17, a senior at the school, readily admits that verbal communication isn’t her strong suit.

Her medium is drawing and painting.

So when she heard about an opportunity to use art to help raise money for the victims’ families, she plunged in. Four students died at the hand of shooter Jaylen Fryberg, 15, who also killed himself: Zoe Galasso, Shaylee Chuckulnaskit and Gia Soriano, all 14, and Andrew Fryberg, 15. Nate Hatch, 14, shot in the jaw, is the only victim to survive.

The fundraiser, dubbed “Healing Hearts,” is run by a youth apparel company in Marysville called Curacy, which first got some buzz in 2013 when its initial line, called The Please Line, got noticed during Milan Fashion Week.

Mel McGhee, Curacy’s CEO, decided that her new business — custom-printed T-shirts — would be ideal for artistic students as part of their recovery from the trauma.

“We had several people call us and ask us to do a fundraiser with clip art and such,” McGhee said.

But that was probably more suited to a standard screen printer rather than Curacy’s business, which makes apparel to order and uses straight-to-garment printing, a longer and more involved process.

McGhee asked an art teacher she knew to get the word out to students. “We contacted her and asked, ‘Do you think kids would find healing this way?’” she said.

McCartney heard about it in an email from Karen Epperson, her advanced-placement art teacher at Marysville Pilchuck.

She spent the week after the shooting, while the school was closed, putting together “Our Choice,” a mixed-media artwork incorporating stencils, pencil, marker, colored pencil, paint and cutout figures filled in with gel pens.

“After the event, I suppose I felt the need to get some energy out, and in support of Marysville Pilchuck,” McCartney said. “Part of it is a purge, and part of it is in support of the fundraiser.”

“Our Choice” features a large pair of hands, surrounded by human figures against a background that evokes a stained-glass window.

The hands are a recurring motif in McCartney’s other work.

“Sometimes your face can’t express what your hands express. If you’re gripping something, there’s tension,” McCartney said. “You can tell the difference between letting go and holding onto something.”

The human figures represent the victims and are filled with colorful lines and shapes.

“It wasn’t just to fill blank space. The color in them shows there’s something there. They’re not just gone,” McCartney said.

Another student who took part in Curacy’s fundraiser was Quincy McFalls, a senior in the Running Start program at Everett Community College.

She took a different approach, choosing bright watercolors for a piece called “Colors in the Sky,” which shows two people loosing balloons into the sun, with a rainbow and eagle above.

The rainbow was inspired by a brilliant rainbow many students saw a couple days after the shooting.

“We took it as a sign of God and his angels looking down on us,” McFalls said.

The balloons, which she took from the students’ memorial on the fence at the school, represent the victims and the eagle, with a long ponytail representing Jaylen Fryberg.

McFalls said she is friends with several Fryberg family members.

“I felt their hurt and confusion and I felt torn up inside,” she said. She took inspiration from a Facebook post by a family member who said goodbye to Jaylen, calling him an eagle.

Both designs, plus a third one submitted anonymously from the larger community, are featured on Curacy’s fundraiser site at The T-shirts are $24, with all profits going to the MPHS Recovery Fund administered by the Rotary Education Foundation.

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

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