Thanks to the will of the voters throughout the Southeast King County communities of Taylor, Hobart and Maple Valley, high school students in the Tahoma School District this fall will enter a brand new high school that gleams with potential and resonates with history.
The new Tahoma High School is now the largest school in the state of Washington, and as you approach the school from a distance, the first thing you’ll see is a monumental work by sculptor Paul Sorey that echoes the curves of the Cedar River and is emblazoned across the front of the building.
More public art is on display inside. At the foot of an imposing three-story staircase, the specially commissioned works of two Tahoma High School alumni stand as testament to the power of how you can use your education to shape your own destiny. A 1987 THS graduate who now lives in Spokane, Tom Ourada has built a career in woodworking, and his one-of-a-kind contribution is a multi-level, sculptural bench of inlaid wood called “Logjam.” Intricately pieced together and highly polished, this piece leads up the staircase to a large painting of a bear, familiar to all Tahoma High students and alumni as the longtime longtime school mascot. Since graduating from Tahoma High School in 2002, artist Iris Scott has developed a worldwide clientele for her vividly hued, large-scale finger paintings, and now works out of a studio in Brooklyn. But she came back to Maple Valley to present this piece, titled “Arctos.” By depicting an intensely focused bear, she hopes to convey the importance of commitment. (Ed. note: for more on the artwork in this school, see the in-depth story in Voice of the Valley.)
The area’s heritage is also honored in this new building. In the entrance hall, underneath a motto that exhorts students to “Honor the Past, Live the Present, Create the Future,” you’ll find dozens of historical photographs provided by the Maple Valley Historical Society, the Black Diamond Historical Society, the Renton History Museum, and others – images that depict the area’s students and the schools of yesteryear. And in the school’s cafeteria space, an entire wall is taken up by a dramatic photo of an old-time locomotive steaming across a trestle and heading out of Renton and up into Maple Valley.
These are only a few of the details that make this building so engaging. It was the generosity of taxpayers and the forethought of planners that created this marvelous structure. But next week, it will be the students, teachers and staff who breathe life into this building and make it a real school.