When manufacturing, music, and art collide
When manufacturing, music, and art collide
Posted on 02/18/2019
When manufacturing, music, and art collide

Kaylee Sparhawk loves art and is very talented.

A junior at Rogers High School, Kaylee transferred from Emerald Ridge mid-year last year. When she received her schedule the first day of school, she was surprised to learn she had a manufacturing class that she hadn’t signed up for. Kaylee was disappointed. In fact, power tools scare her. “I don’t like that stuff!” she says.

Manufacturing teacher David Cerio picked up on this right away. He set out to find a solution for an unhappy student who didn’t quite seem to fit in his class.

After a brief conversation with her, he discovered Kaylee had taken art the last four years, and she would have preferred to be in an art class. She especially liked Van Gogh. “The next day she brought me a painting that she called her version of ‘Starry Night.' Her passion for art was shining through her smile as she explained the process she used to create her painting,” says Cerio.

What came next was a moment that was meant to be.

It so happened, Cerio has a bass instrument given to him by Lizabeth Diaz, a music teacher who passed away a year ago. He kept it with the idea of having ‘Starry Night’ painted on the bass as a tribute to his best friend — it was her favorite. He was considering shipping it all the way to Australia to have it done.

“It was at that moment my heart knew Kaylee would be the one to bring my vision to life,” says Cerio.

But Kaylee was not so sure this was a good idea. “He brought it in and said, ‘I want you to paint this.’ I said no, I’m going to mess it up and this is something valuable to you.” Cerio’s encouragement and confidence in her caused Kaylee to agree to the project.

Rogers High SchoolNext, they went to see Paul Gorski, the new art teacher at Rogers, and asked if he would be interested in mentoring Kaylee on the project. Gorski graciously accepted the idea.

“I knew how special the bass was to David, and I would have helped on that alone. But then, here was Kaylee, who had a sense of belonging with art but was not able to take an art class. I had a sense that she felt ousted, which I could identify with from my own high school experience. As a teacher, when you find a way to reach a student, you take it,” says Gorski.

From left: Paul Gorski, Kaylee Sparhawk, David Cerio

Kaylee got started the very next day. First, she traced the instrument and created a sketch. “Her first sketch was exactly what my vision was for the piece,” says Cerio. Next, her fellow manufacturing classmates helped her cut holes where the stars were going to be painted. 

She decided she wanted to stay true to Van Gogh’s artwork, so Gorski helped her choose oil paint instead of acrylic. Oil is richer in color and texture, and Van Gogh used it to paint his famous piece. “I described to Kaylee about seeing a Van Gogh in person in the museum. The texture and brushwork are most noteworthy. I managed to find a detailed, close up picture so she could see. She decided to use modeling paste to build up the texture around the stars,” says Gorski.

Rogers studentIt took five months to finish the painting — just in time to display it at the Rogers winter art show last January.

More than an art project
Something else happened to Kaylee along the journey to complete the bass instrument painting. She started the school year wanting to return to Emerald Ridge and feeling a bit out of place at Rogers. All of that has changed.

She feels valued and listened to by Rogers staff and teachers. Her passion for art has continued to blossom. The manufacturing class embraced and supported Kaylee. She is one of them now. She is a Rogers Ram.

“She’s just an awesome kid. She is very talented, and it was good to see her take on the project and continue to take steps forward,” says Cerio.

What’s next for Kaylee
Today, Kaylee and Gorski are planning her next art project. She plans to paint a bass drum and perhaps a mini tuba.

After she graduates, Kaylee hopes to have a career in the art industry. “I’d be a little sad if I didn’t pursue this — it wasn’t for nothing,” says Kaylee.


Nancy French
frenchnl@puyallup.k12.wa.us