When Sultan High School senior Gus Schalo decided that he wanted to leave his mark on the high school, he devised a particularly artistic way to do it.
Having worked extensively in the school’s salmon hatchery as a Biology Teaching Assistant, Schalo decided that he would paint a decorative mural on the hatchery’s large roll-up door, which had been marred with graffiti for many years. He then recruited seniors Tom Carter, Tristan King and Robbie Rappuhn to help him accomplish the task. Truly reminiscent of both Sultan and the Sky Valley as a whole, the vibrant mural includes blue skies, a rising sun, trees, mountains, a river and a fisherman.
Schalo said that taking care of the hatchery since the beginning of the school year really motivated him, and led him to want to do something to improve the 28-by-24-foot home of approximately 12,250 baby Coho salmon.
“I kind of just wanted to leave my mark,” said Schalo. “I wanted to better the hatchery.”
The team of 18-year-old students set about planning the design and developing a strategy for incorporating it onto the hatchery door. The resulting mural turned out to be a colorful nod to the Sky Valley area and all that it encompasses, and despite the fact that none of the seniors describe themselves as being particularly artistic, all four are pleased with the way the mural has turned out.
“This was our first time with spray paints,” said King.
“I’m not very artistic usually, but if you take your time and just go slow and be careful, you can really do anything with spray paint,” said Schalo.
Each of the four spearheaded different aspects of the project, and then worked as a team, bringing all the different elements together. Schalo did the majority of the painting and design work, King was responsible for the stencils, Rappuhn accomplished random tasks as they came up, and Carter was primarily responsible for using tape to ensure that the different parts of the design lined up correctly.
None of the students’ contributions were limited in any way. In addition to working with tape, Carter also tackled some of the painting.
“I actually did a little of the sky and I gave the idea of snow-capping the mountains,” said Carter. “I’m a good snow-capper.”
Schalo and King are both TAs for Sultan High School Biology Instructor, Ryan Monger, and often worked on the project during their 5th period.
“My two TAs who are running the hatchery decided that it looked terrible and wanted to leave their legacy,” said Monger. “Before they started, it was just a scrubby white door that had been spray painted with profanity.”
Monger enthusiastically acknowledged the students’ hard work and praised their results.
“It looks fantastic,” said Monger.
The four started the project in January, working on it sporadically throughout the winter. As the weather began to improve, the project began to pick up speed and they’ve been working on it quite regularly for the past several weeks.
The fish inside Sultan’s “Fish Lab” come from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife hatchery in Gold Bar. Since the beginning of the school year, Schalo has been responsible for the hatchery, feeding and caring for the fish as they hatch. Approximately 10,000 tiny salmon currently occupy one of the hatchery “runways;” all hatched from eggs Schalo received in January.
Once the fish become larger in size, they get shifted over to deeper tanks and eventually, Schalo and King will release them into Winter’s Creek. Currently there are approximately 2500 salmon in the tanks which are large enough for release.
Schalo, King, Carter and Rappuhn are excited to graduate from school and have all successfully given their senior presentations. Schalo, who is interested in becoming a wildland firefighter, will work with a crew this winter, building snow-terrain parks at Stevens Pass.
Rappuhn, who is interested in law enforcement, is planning on attending community college. King, also interested in law enforcement, is seeking a Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice that will enable him to pursue his career goal of becoming a game warden.
Having spent a lot of time outdoors, King has been interested in becoming a game warden for as long as he can remember.
“I just have a passion for protecting things that don’t necessarily have a say in whether they get protected or not,” said King.
Carter, who has enlisted in the United States Army, will ship out to boot camp in August. He stated that he has had military aspirations ever since he was very young.
School staff and local residents all agree that the mural is a welcome addition to the landscape of the area behind the school. Sultan resident Craig Young recently shared how much he appreciates the hatchery’s new artistic enhancement.
“It’s very, very pretty,” said Young, who frequently walks his dog in the area. “We walk by there just about every day and admire it.”