In three locations around the Kenai Peninsula, a series of linoleum prints featuring octopuses, puffins and other aquatic animals are on display and up for grabs for anyone who makes a $10 donation to the Alaska SeaLife Center.
These pieces were made by art students from Seward Middle School and Seward High School, who spent the last two months making the prints from photos of animals that call the SeaLife Center home.
Since the end of September, those prints have been on display at Fine Thyme Cafe in Soldotna, Woody’s Thai Kitchen in Seward and Captain’s Coffee Roasting Company in Homer. From now until the end of November, people can stop at one of these locations, show a receipt of their $10 donation and take home a print of their choice.
The community project was spearheaded by the new art teacher for Seward Middle and High Schools, Megan Wiley, who moved from Texas this summer to take over both the art classes in Seward and the online art curriculum provided by the school district for all students on the Kenai Peninsula.
Taking two teaching positions in the middle of a pandemic has been a challenge, Wiley said, but that didn’t stop her from developing an art curriculum for her students that revolves around community engagement. This project, Wiley said, was meant to give her students the opportunity to support their local community while also providing art for others to enjoy.
It also gave Wiley to plan for her remote curriculum while her in-person students had their hands full with printmaking.
“Once you get the kids going on a project like this, they tend to be pretty self-directed,” Wiley said. “And they get that feeling of being successful and having accomplished something.”
Wiley said that all of her Seward students, from seventh grade to twelfth, made prints for the SeaLife center. She estimated that well over 100 students created at least 300 prints.
“If you were in school here and you were in my classroom, you were printmaking,” Wiley said.
Jazmyn Musick, a tenth grader at Seward High School, said she really enjoyed learning the process of printmaking, even though the concept was a little hard to understand at first. Musick made her print from a photo of an octopus. When it came time to carve the design into the linoleum, part of her wished she had picked an animal with fewer appendages.
“My hand was definitely sore by the end of it,” Musick said. Musick has always been passionate about art, she said, and will likely continue experimenting with printmaking on her own time.
Donna Hinders, an eighth grader at Seward Middle School who made a puffin print, said she found the printmaking process fairly easy. Hinders has experience with sculpting as well and said she was glad to have learned printmaking because she feels it will be a useful skill in pursuing her passion of clothing design.
For Seward students like Musick and Hinders, the SeaLife Center plays a big role in their educational experience. Hinders said that the SeaLife Center is a frequent field trip spot for the local schools.
While the students knew from the beginning that the prints were meant to raise money for the SeaLife Center, they did not know their works would be publicly on display until they were well underway.
Musick said when she heard her art would be displayed across the peninsula, she was excited by the prospect.
“It’s really cool that people would want to see your art and take it home,” Musick said.
Hinders said knowing that it would be on display gave her a little more motivation to put out her best work.
“At that point it was like, oh, now I have an audience,” Hinders said. “I better make sure this looks good.”
Wiley may be new in her role as Seward art teacher, but she is no stranger to the area and has been staying in Seward almost every summer for most of her life. Wiley’s parents own a lodge in Lowell Point, and she said she has been taking her niece to the SeaLife Center every weekend for as long as she can remember.
Wiley said she likes to roll out at least one project like this a year. Going forward she hopes to incorporate her remote students into the projects as well.
Wiley also has a YouTube channel called “Wileys Artroom” where she posts educational art videos that she uses for her remote curriculum.
The student-made prints are available at the following locations:
Fine Thyme Cafe, 44619 Sterling Highway in Soldotna
Woody’s Thai Kitchen, 800 4th Ave. in Seward
Captain’s Coffee Roasting Company, 295 E Pioneer Ave. in Homer