Students from Rainier Beach, Franklin and South Lake high schools have been working over the past five weeks to create banners that will be permanently displayed in the Rainier Beach business district.
The group of about a dozen students met twice a week with professional artist Hiawatha Davis to learn the basics of graphic design using Adobe Illustrator, and then incorporated their ideas into five designs for the 25 fabric banners. Davis is a local artist who has worked on several murals and projects in the city, including murals at Garfield High School and Bailey-Gatzert Elementary School.
The vertical banners will be mounted along light poles in the business district on Rainier Avenue South, South Henderson Street and Seward Park Avenue South beginning early next summer.
Responding to wishes from the Rainier Beach Merchants Association, the Rainier Beach Community Empowerment Coalition partnered with Southeast Effective Development to recruit youth from the Rainier Beach area for the project. The funds come from the city's Department of Neighborhoods and the Northwest Insurance Council.
Davis has been working with the students for the past five weeks and has seen a change in the students from when their work first began. Upon completion of the project, students will earn $150.
"I treat them as my co-workers, I can see a big change in how they approach work, from being on time, producing artwork not just for themselves but for other people. I try to explain the difference between doing artwork for yourself when you can do anything you want, as opposed to when you're being hired to do a project for someone else," Davis said.
A public reception, as well as a week-long comment period was held to review the designs created by the students, and using community feedback, Davis will confer with the students on the re-design of the final five designs. The designs will convey a sense of community pride while giving the Rainier Beach business district more visibility.
Made from a specialized UV-protective material called Sunbrella, the banners should last for five years – about four years longer than regular canvas banners.
"We got some really good feedback from the reception, it was really positive and the community was pleased that we're giving youth the opportunity to do something positive that the whole community will see," said Abbey Norris, public art manager for SEED.
"To be doing a project like this with a lot of stipulations -- it's difficult for many. Without knowing professional software and not really understanding what's at task when you take on a project for hire, the students are doing an exceptional job," Davis said. "We only have an hour and a half twice a week. Most of these students don't have this program at home where they can work and practice. So, with limited time, just learning the basics of graphic design, they've come a long way."
"They will be a part of this community for awhile and it's rare to see young African American males be involved a permanent project that will be so visible in the community," Davis said. "I'm proud of them and proud to be a part of this project that will project a sense of pride in the community."