Seattle World School
In this school we learn to fly together, no matter where you come from.
A couple of years I was contacted by the Washington State Arts Commission about creating a project for a newly remodeled school in Seattle. I had no idea at that time what an amazing opportunity this would be, or what an incredible place Seattle World School is.
” It is one of only a few schools in the country designed as a preliminary entry point for immigrant children in their quest for academic achievement and full participation in American society.”
At the school there was a community of amazing faculty and volunteers working diligently toward this goal. I also met some dynamic students who helped in the forming of these acrylic bird forms. Seattle World School’s mission made me feel great pride in the values of our community. Their work should be commended for being at the forefront of helping the most vulnerable in our society.
The principal, Dr. Bruno Cross, told me the story of one 14 year old student. Just two weeks prior to being at the school, he was alone, riding on top of a train across Mexico, bound for the border. These are the kinds of kids that find them selves here. They find themselves embraced by a community who welcomes them, and is invested in their success.
It was a great honor to be selected to create something for this institution and this community that embodies these values.
This drawing became the concept for the project. I thought the way I hung the ceramic fish in The Ghost School sculpture had some potential for different types of applications. I had been thinking that a flock of birds could work in a similar fashion.
When I visited the school office, there hung a chandelier of origami birds, nearly a thousand of them that one of the faculty had made. My visit to the the school breathed some life and story into the concept. The concept resonated with the school’s art committee, especially their art teacher Lori Leberer, who was head of the committee. With their approval the concept went into full design mode.
From Drawing to Reality
My process involves doing some mechanical drawings. These serve to to begin the dialogue with the engineer, Dave Hornsby of IDE Engineers. We have worked on many projects together large and small and the process was pretty straightforward. I decided to have the birds grouped into the colors of the spectrum and as they ascend they would no longer be constrained to their place in the spectrum
I also needed something to hang my flock from and I engaged my friend and collaborator Aaron Whelton to help design the grid the birds would hang from.
Originally, I wanted to make the birds from laminated safety glass. I soon realized that it was not a practical approach for a variety of reasons. I was surprised to learn that the colors available in glass were not what I had been envisioning. Acrylic seemed like a perfect choice as it would be safe and durable, have the look of glass, a proper spectrum of colors. I would also
have an unlimited supply of birds to populate the sculpture with.
As a middle schooler in Colorado I attended Hill Middle School. I had an awesome shop teacher, Mr. Adams. In his plastic shop class I learned the technique of line bending acrylic to make my Mom a plastic napkin holder. This technique would be the solution to getting the array of bends I needed for the sculpture. Thanks Mr. Adams!
Installing something like this is a multiple day task. We attached 120 birds to an array of 210 strings. I had a lot of help from Spencer West, my wife Joanne Franklin, and my daughter Ruby.
The Faculty, Staff, and Students of Seattle World School, Lori Leberer, Dr. Bruno Cross, Chuck Zimmer, Aaron Whelton, IDE Engineering, Kurt Nordquist, Spencer West, Joanne Franklin, Ruby Franklin and Hieu Tran and the Washington State Arts Commission
Thanks for learning more about this project and Seattle World School,