10-year endeavor complete at VSAA

Final 3 panels of 6-panel triptych installed as part of Confluence Project

By Susan Parrish, Columbian education reporter



If you go

• What: VSAA Confluence Project Dedication and community celebration. Julie Brown, artist in residence for the project, will talk about creating the mosaics on two sets of triptychs, followed by a viewing.

• When 3-5 p.m. June 21.

• Where: Vancouver School of Arts and Academics, Royal Durst Theater, 3101 Main St., Vancouver.

To learn more

See more photos of crews installing the panels.

Paintbrush in hand, teacher Jeri Swatosh used black paint to cover screws on the Sacajawea panel Tuesday as a crane and bucket truck pulled onto the west lawn at Vancouver School of Arts and Academics. Those final brush strokes were the culmination of a decade of work for Swatosh.

Nodding toward the panel, Swatosh said, "She's the beauty. Strong, beautiful, stunning."

"I think she is my favorite," said Julie Brown, VSAA's artist in residence, pointing to the Sacajawea panel. "(I had) the chance to work with a descendant of Sacajawea."

Then a crew secured rope to either side of the panel, and a crane hoisted the 1,000-pound panel into the air. The destination: metal framework designed to hold the panels securely to the school's stately front facade.

Slowly, the image of Sacajawea and her infant son, Pomp, floated through the air toward the school's brick exterior.

Perched atop an extended ladder, Dave Sams of Advanced Electric Signs in Woodland guided the panels into place.

Installing the final three art panels took less than 90 minutes, but Swatosh's role began a decade ago with a grant to produce a mosaic project nodding to the historical significance of Fort Vancouver, Lewis and Clark, Sacajawea and Native American culture. Students drew first designs 10 years ago. Artist-in-residence Brown came on board four years ago, using the students' original designs as guidelines, redrawing them and thematically tying them together in six mosaic panels. Students then painted tiles that were fired to create the mosaic.

The first three panels were installed in September 2012.

Mike Starks of Soha Sign was the lead engineer who determined how to make the panels removable. Volunteer Mark Wiley, a retired welder, welded the frame for the last three panels at the Soha Sign shop.

"I feel like I'm finally breathing again," Brown said, watching the crew complete the installation.

When the final panel was placed, Swatosh said to the crowd of students, staff and neighbors on the sidewalk, "You guys, the project is officially done!"

Students, staff and neighbors broke into applause.

To donate to VSAA's Confluence Project, contact the Foundation for Vancouver Public Schools at 360-313-4730 or http://foundationforvps.org and designate gift to "VSAA Confluence Project."