Schools Nurture Artists and Also Teach Real-World Skills

Art takes many forms in the Twin Cities school districts, from pure painting to digital photography to entrepreneurial-based subjects such as sign making and screen printing.

At W.F. West, one class in the Career and Technical Information department is preparing students for the art of making money.

Donny Bunker teaches the sign-making class. They make everything from small signs to majestic vehicle wraps. His class has made signs for the city of Chehalis, construction companies, even Penny Playground.

Bunker said his class is based in art, but is really preparing our youth for their future careers. He teaches problem solving and how to use software programs.

“We run it like a business,” he said, with the goal of making his students career and college ready. Key attributes are being on time and teamwork. “I’m kind of like the owner of the company,” he said, adding his advance students are supervisors and incoming students the staff.

Bunker appreciates working in the Chehalis School District.

“It’s awesome,” he said. “The district and administration is really supportive.”

The students flock to his classes.

“I have a waiting list, all our classes are full,” he said.

Part of the appeal throughout the district is its commitment to current tech hardware. The district completely turns over its computer equipment every three years. Bunker has 31 Mac computers in his class.

W.F. West Principal Bob Walters said that fulfills the district’s goals of “improve, modernize and prepare.”

“Seven years ago we started changing out and modernizing our schools,” he said. “We think we’re there with having computer labs in the classrooms.”

On a more pure art form, W.F. West also offers photography classes, with an emphasis on entrepreneurial, journalism and studio photography. Teacher Alison Clinton teaches them to shoot on manual, look for background noise, software manipulation and studio lighting. They also have current computers and cameras, as well as software programs.

The high school also delves into food, teaching a culinary arts class preparing them for the real world of restaurants. Classes in graphic design are also popular. Traditional art classes such as pottery and painting round out the curriculum.

At Centralia High School, art is also part of the makeup of classes. Senior Hailey Groves, 18, is one of the school’s top artists, specializing in watercolors.

“My go-to is watercolors. You get to customize your colors and if you make mistakes it’s easy to cover them up and fix them,” she said.

Groves has been creating art ever since she can remember, and does it both at school and in her spare time at home. She said public schools need to provide a liberal arts education.

“I think it’s important we do have it because some people don’t have access to supplies and this might be their only opportunity to express themselves that way,” she said. “I don’t think school should just be for core subjects, but include things people enjoy. You should be a well-rounded person, you should get to experience things and have some fun.”