SNOHOMISH — A coral octopus covers the side of the house.
The art students get out their acrylic paints and brushes first thing in the morning at Snohomish High School. They head outside and spend an hour focused on recreating their drawings on the walls. They’re decorating a tiny house, which is going to be moved to Seattle as a shelter for homeless people.
The temperature has dropped since they started in September. Already there has been frost on the ground when the students get to school at 7:30 a.m. Some asked to stay inside at first.
Then they had a discussion with their teacher, Toni Minish. They talked about the people the house is going to, who don’t always have a place to go in the cold.
“That’s when I think it dawned on them, and they have not complained since,” she said. “I think they realized that they can put up with it for just a little while to get it done, and they aren’t experiencing anything remotely like the homeless.”
The structure was built by kids in a manufacturing class taught by Matt Johnson last year. The painters are in Minish’s advanced and college-level art classes. Some are also in an after-school club called Art Honor Society. Minish expects to be done by the end of November.
The group voted to decorate the building with a deep sea theme. The class first planned their designs on paper, then copied them onto the wooden surface.
About 30 students are involved with the project. Multi-colored fish, squid and seaweed cover the surface. White chalk outlines the placement of underwater ruins.
Senior Kelsey Bensen created the giant octopus. She wanted it to stand out with the bright-red hue. She’s gotten some help from her classmates.
They all huddle together as they try to get the details of the tentacles and suction cups just right. Music plays in the background, and sometimes they take dance breaks. One of Bensen’s favorite aspects of the project has been bonding with her friends.
They’ve had to fix some mistakes, which put them behind schedule. Bensen wants it to look just right. She feels more attached to this project than others she’s finished.
“I like how this is going to someone who needs it,” she said. “I’m really putting my heart and soul into it.”
Nellie Booth is a senior as well, and spends three periods a day in Minish’s classes. She also is the president of the Art Honor Society.
Booth painted a mermaid with pink hair on the door. She’s also painted the inside a gradually faded blue, from dark near the floor to light on the ceiling.
“It was mixing, and remixing, and mixing again,” she said.
The club used its own money to paint the interior. They’re gathering blankets to donate with the house as well.
Senior Emma Lever also plans to paint a mermaid.
Colored pencils are her favorite medium. Painting a wooden surface is new to her. She drew the woman from the back, with a sapphire tail.
Lever’s excited to see how all the different pieces look together.
“I think it (will) give life to people who might be more sad,” she said. “Hopefully the designs will make them happy.”
Minish believes these sorts of projects teach more than creativity. The students have had to collaborate, explain their project to others and problem solve.
“There are all kinds of life skills involved in the process that I think are absolutely valuable,” she said.