Kayhi art students bring color to old school entertainment

Ketchikan High School senior Sarah Palaruan paints arms onto the body of an octopus on Nov. 8 at W.F. Madden's Family Entertainment Center. Palaruan collaborated with about 10 schoolmates who are adding murals to the interior walls at the new recreation center. Staff photo by Dustin Safranek

 Few things are less entertaining than a plain white wall, which is why a small group of Ketchikan High School students are collaborating to bring a little color to W.F. Madden’s family entertainment center.

W.F. Madden’s, which operates out of the old church building on First Avenue, was opened in mid-July by Dee Wright and Kriestone Gementiza. The center was named for late Ketchikan resident William Frank Madden, with the goal of providing “old school” entertainment in the form of pool, foosball and darts, according to Wright.

Since Halloween, a handful of Kayhi juniors and seniors, all belonging to the National Art Honor Society, have been spending some late weekday afternoons planning and painting several scenes on the mostly bare walls.

“I just want the kids to feel like this is somewhere they can be and they had a part in fixing it up,” Wright told the Daily News late last week, looking on as the Kayhi students laughed and painted.

Wright said that the idea to enlist high school students to decorate the walls came from a past project at The Manor, the assisted living home that she owns. Nearly a decade ago, Kayhi students helped to paint the walls of the home, which Wright said made the residents very happy.

To gather the new group of students, Wright contacted Louise Kern, an art teacher at Kayhi. Kern, who is the supervisor for the National Art Honor Society at the school, then contacted students involved in the organization.

Currently, the small group is working on five different murals, ranging from animated to realistic.

“They (Wright and Kern) just wanted to liven up the space a little bit,” Tyler Merle, a Kayhi senior, said about the project.

“We had to finalize what our ideas were, and the design and stuff, before we started,” added senior Anne Coss.

While most of the students began working on their projects in late October, W.F. Madden’s hours of operation – Wednesday through Saturday – allow for only a few hours of work a week. Because of this, the work of sketching and painting is split up across many afternoons.

The teens have divided the building into sections, and each student or group of students is in charge of designing and painting that portion of the building, Coss explained.

Merle and Coss, both members of the school swim team, are working together on a scene that features a sea turtle.

Close to Coss and Merle’s dolphin, senior Talisa McKinley has been working solo on a large depiction of a pair of intertwined hands.  The hands also feature natural elements, such as tree branches and flowers.

“I took a bit from researching online, but then I (am) kind of changing it to my own feelings,” McKinley explained. “I’m good at taking something else and making it bigger or kind of doing it exact.”  

On the wall next to McKinley’s hands, senior Ada Hu and junior Charlie King have been working on a space-themed mural that starts at the floorboards and spreads up the wall. King and Hu don’t yet know how far they will take the mural.

The idea stemmed from their English class, which focuses on works of science fiction.

Hu and King noted that they were receiving help on the project from fellow students Lauren Scarzella and Savannah Yeisley.

Hu, King, Scarzella and Yeisley began working on their project on Halloween, and have filled their section of the wall with planets, a rocket ship and a floating astronaut.

“It’s going to take us awhile,” Hu said about the mural.

“Probably like a few more weeks,’ King estimated.

Next to the expansive space mural, Sarah Palaruan, a senior, was creating a playful picture. A bright red and orange octopus dominated the space, and Palaruan was nearly ready to sketch in a piano, which the creature would be playing with its tentacles.

“I thought it would be fun,” said Palaruan, who “wanted to put an animated factor to it.”

Across the room from the octopus, senior Dearly Villaflor was working on a design inspired by Alaska.

Villaflor’s project, a 3D tugboat, was sketched in one afternoon. Villaflor came back the next day to begin painting the boat.

Villaflor imagines that she might add a seaplane above the scene after the boat is finished.

 “I wanted it to be more Alaskan,” she said.

Wright said that its not just Kayhi students who can contribute to the space.

“There’s plenty of wall space,” Wright joked, adding that she didn’t know how much of the space would be covered by the students’ artwork.