A 4th and 5th grade teacher at Montlake Elementary has livened up the school with a mural that showcases neighborhood landmarks like the Montlake Bridge and Café Lago.
When she toured Montlake after accepting a teaching position for fall 2017, Emily Gussin noticed a big blank wall in the school’s covered outdoor playcourt near Calhoun Street. “I immediately asked if the school had ever thought about putting art there, and asked if I could do it,” Ms. Gussin told the Montlake Flyer.
Ms. Gussin, who has a history of making positive graffiti art, was the right person to enhance the space. Before she began teaching, Ms. Gussin travelled worldwide with Few and Far, a group of female artists creating graffiti art for productive, not destructive uses. With this artist’s collective, Ms. Gussin traveled to Israel, among other places, to create a graffiti mural in a 6’ x 6’ bomb shelter at a daycare.
Ms. Gussin is a Seattle native and Ballard High School alum, and her time with Few and Far led her to teach in the district she graduated from. Her father, Hamilton Middle School math teacher Jordan Gussin, suggested she help teach after school graffiti art classes at his school. Ms. Gussin eventually led the classes and got hooked on teaching. After getting her master’s degree in teaching, Ms. Gussin was hired at Montlake, where she is loved by her students for her creativity and enthusiasm.
A special outcome of the mural, Ms. Gussin noted, is that her students have come to see her as a whole person with creative interests that go beyond teaching. “The kids had no idea that I had this interest before,” she said. Two students at the school have since become passionate creators of positive graffiti-style artwork.
Montlake is a historically landmarked building. For the mural’s creation, school principal Julie Pearson secured permission from the school district’s department of self-help. Although in her first year at the school, Ms. Pearson eagerly took on the challenge. “It was obvious to me when I first arrived that something needed to happen with that blank wall and it was fun to collaborate with Emily to make it work.”
Jennifer Lundgren, Montlake’s art teacher and past recipient of the Washington Art Education Association Elementary Education of the Year Award, plans to work with students to add designs at the bottom of the mural.
The mural now memorializes a piece of Montlake history: it features the “Hop-In” alongside other neighborhood landmarks. The Hop-In, now called the Montlake Boulevard Market, is slated for destruction by the Washington State Department of Transportation.