Vaughn teen carries artistic message to D.C.


Rodika Tollefson, KP News

It was a piece of art among many other pieces in a young artist’s portfolio, but it took a Vaughn teen-ager on an extraordinary journey across the country.

The art, a grayscale batik representation, was created by Peninsula High School student Sarah Spunaugle. This summer, the “Untitled” piece—and Sarah—traveled to Washington, D.C. to represent Washington state in an exhibit by VSA Arts, an international nonprofit organization that promotes the participation of people with disabilities in the arts and society.

Carmen Murray, a vocational education teacher at PHS and a Key Pen resident, received an email during the school year about an art event in Seattle, and was asked to bring along some student work. As it turned out, the event was part of a nationwide contest. Sarah was chosen as one of two students from Washington state, the other being Gig Harbor High School student Kyle Lehosky.

Winning the state level meant Sarah received an all-expense trip to the nation’s capital for herself and a companion, and she invited Murray to come along. Hearing about the great news, staff at Vaughn Elementary and Key Peninsula Middle School, both of which Sarah previously attended, raised $2,400 to send her mom along as well. They didn’t stop there: They made sure the three ladies had beautiful outfits for a congressional reception, and a digital camera to document the excitement.

The four-day trip included an exhibit of all the artists at Central Gallery, a visit to the Capitol where senators such as John Kerry and Ted Kennedy were in attendance, and sightseeing of the capital’s most prominent landmarks.

Sarah, a shy teen who takes a while to warm up and talk to a stranger, will be a senior this year at PHS. She says art is hard for her, but she likes the kind of art that gives her step-by-step instructions. “Untitled” was one of those artworks. The class assignment was to create a portrait using six shades of black. Murray helped her thumb through magazines to find a picture, and after making a copy they projected it onto the wall, from where Sarah traced it on fabric.

“It was like a puzzle; we looked at the picture and at the fabric and numbered it,” Murray said. “She’d already done batik projects and knew the techniques.”

The end result was a 35-inch by 22-inch portrait, which was later picked by chance from her portfolio for the Seattle exhibit.

“This piece just happened to be in her portfolio,” Murray said.

Now, the piece has embarked on its own journey: It is part of a traveling exhibit being displayed around the country.