Islands' Sounder


One more year for an old barn

September 1, 2013 · Updated 12:50 PM

Some of the 2014 graduating seniors after painting the barn on Sept. 3 and 4. / Colleen Smith Armstrong/staff photo


Sounder contributor

The psychedelic ramshackle shed on Orcas Road is falling off its foundations and “held up by layers and layers of paint,” says current senior class president Aidan Anderson.

The pigments of yesteryear must be some pretty stern stuff. For an estimated octogenarian, the barn has endured well the host of high school seniors that scales its roof each fall to paint.

“We’ve held the same position for the past eight years,” said landowner Rick Hughes. “I like traditions. We very well know how important it is to the community, and we want to do our part to continue to provide this to the community – as long as no one gets hurt. We don’t officially endorse people using it.”

The barn stands, despite plans in 2012 to demolish and replace the structure for the graduating class to paint that year. Each fall for the past few years, Hughes and his wife Marlace have carefully explained their concerns to Orcas Island High School Principal Kyle Freeman. The kids are free to paint the walls, but those daring the roof do so at their own risk – and the school’s.

Every year the school board approves the painting project as a field trip and the kids have to turn in permission slips.

In 2012, Orcas senior Devon Stanzione hoped to replace the shed as his senior project, but the plan was deterred by multiple problems, including wetlands in the area.

“[This issue] always comes up right when they’re about to paint it,” said Rick. “We’re hoping for a more long-term strategy. The goal is by this time next year to have a new building built.”

Farmers Eric and Amy Lum run their flock of sheep on the Hughes’ land, and Rick said Eric will draw up plans for a more useful farm structure sometime in the future.

The Hughes envision a new sheep barn built with Orcas Island wood, sustainably grown and milled here on the island. It would also provide an even larger canvas for each senior class’ artistic expression.

“We would welcome anyone’s involvement with either labor or materials,” Rick said.

The Hughes would also welcome assistance with the cost of dumping the old shed, layered with about 30 years of paint that most likely includes some lead paint.

Barns of the past will be immortalized by senior Lindsay Lancaster, who is collecting photos for her senior project. To send her images of the barn through the years, email llancaster@orcas.k12.wa.us.

The senior class began painting the old barn on August 26. Anderson says community members who drive by should honk and wave to cheer them on.

“The design isn’t going to be released yet, but we’re going to be including glow paint in our design,” said Anderson, adding, “We’re going to have the lightest people on the roof.”

The finished product.


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