Erika Bigelow writes:
Hey Wallingford, there’s some new color in the ‘hood. Thanks to the support of the Wallingford Community Council and the John Stanford International School PTSA, 700 sf of vibrant, colorful, whimsical murals by artist, Ryan Henry Ward, were completed on the South, playground-facing portion of the John Stanford International School, in October. The planning, was two-years in the making, and the results easily exceeded the expectations.
JSIS has one of the smallest playgrounds for a school its size in the district. It hosts over 475 children per school day and is the only play area in the SE Wallingford neighborhood. The community surrounding the school uses this facility after school and on weekends for basketball, learning to ride bikes, playground fun and family time together.
Prior to October, those South-facing walls were a drab green color, which added no life to the playground. The hope of the planning team, was that a mural would inspire the kids and liven up the atmosphere while demonstrating the uniqueness of JSIS. Brainstorming meetings with teachers and parents resulted in a general plan to showcase the JSIS diverse global perspective with a subtext of compassion and friendship.
The teachers and the kids enthusiastically supported the project and lessons on murals in class were followed by awesome question and answer sessions with Henry, while he painted. Students completed their own Henry image to hang inside the school and even had the challenge of a Henry-themed scavenger hunt.
The murals can be viewed from the street on both 4th and 5th, just above 40th, or on the playground itself after school or on weekends. Come and take a look and, if you think you’re a Henry mural expert, see if you can complete the scavenger hunt challenge.
A little about the artist: Henry Ward, who signs his work simply as Henry, is an American artist who has been described as “Seattle‘s most prolific muralist.” Publicly active as an artist since 2008, he has painted over 150 murals on surfaces, such as buildings exteriors, school interiors, garages, and even vehicles in the Seattle area.
As an artist, he began his craft at the age of three, drawing on the walls of his childhood home. In third grade he had his own comic strip, while in the fourth grade he began winning art competitions, which landed his imagery on t-shirts. He self-published greeting cards throughout his childhood, and in high school began yet another comic strip, which was published on the back of Omega Force comic books. He grew up in Enumclaw, Washington and attended Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies at Western Washington University. Post college, he remained in Bellingham as a social worker, increasingly working with art therapy. After his older brother, Brandon died in 1999 of heart failure, Ward and his younger brother Andy traveled in India, Nepal, and Thailand.
In contrast to many other artists in Seattle’s “street artist” scene, Ward always executes his public pieces with the permission of the property owner.
Besides his mural and canvas work, Ryan partners with SAM (Seattle Art Museum) to do quarterly “live painting” workshops that instruct and entertain audiences.
‘Compassion is born from the imagination. To have the desire to be compassionate, you have to imagine a world that’s better than the one you live in.’Ryan Henry Ward, Artist