Arts and Entertainment

Juanita banner waves neighborhood pride

Proud Juanita residents hold up their new banner, which was created by local students and will be installed on main arterial roads that enter and exit the neighborhood by May 10. Left to right: Michelle Lustgarten, Laura Stanger, Tobi Ellis, Clark Ellis, Norm Storme, Cassy Froton, Lois Judd and Barbara Froton.  - Kendall Watson/Kirkland Reporter
Proud Juanita residents hold up their new banner, which was created by local students and will be installed on main arterial roads that enter and exit the neighborhood by May 10. Left to right: Michelle Lustgarten, Laura Stanger, Tobi Ellis, Clark Ellis, Norm Storme, Cassy Froton, Lois Judd and Barbara Froton.
— image credit: Kendall Watson/Kirkland Reporter

For centuries, people have rallied around flags as a symbol of unity, expression and pride. Now Juanita can do the same.

Grinning from ear to ear, former neighborhood chair Norm Storme unfurled a large banner during an April 21 City Council meeting and described the efforts and creativity of local art teachers and hundreds of school children that went into "a bold, colorful statement of pride in our neighborhood."

The banners were paid for with about $6,200 in City grant money from the Neighborhood Matching Grant program after Storme and a team of volunteers worked for the better part of a year to come up with the design of 10 banners created that incorporated the children's art.

Three pieces of art are set horizontally against a deep blue back ground with white letters spelling "Juanita" running down the side, with different images on each side. The banners are set to be installed by May 10 on main arterial roads that enter and exit the Juanita neighborhood such as Forbes Creek Drive, 98th Avenue and 132nd Street.

Gathering at City Hall before the public meeting, the audience of parents and school children - mostly from A.G. Bell and Juanita Elementary schools - filled the Council chamber to the brim, while dozens more watched from outside. Children walked with beaming parents up to the dais and pointed out their artwork from a collection of 65 pieces of art on display, all used in the banner design. Accompanied by her mother Barbara, A.G. Bell third-grader Cassy Froton found her drawing of a grassy field off to the side.

"It's nice to see everyone come together," Barbara said.

As City Council members filed in, they applauded the audience and the community for getting behind the endeavor.

"This is just the essence of community," said Councilman Dave Asher, who seemed to sum up the feeling of the Council. "Thank you very much for leaving Kirkland with something like this."

The idea for the banners came originally from the Greater Kirkland Chamber of Commerce and Juanita Village, who were seeking a way with the Juanita Neighborhood Association to attract business through a branding and beautification effort of the shopping center there. Neighborhood leaders sought to use the artistic talents of local school children and worked with the city's Neighborhoods Coordinator Kari Page to come up with a plan to pay for it.

"We asked them a simple question," Storme said. "When you think of Juanita, what do you think of?"

The result was an outpouring of creativity: From silhouetted panoramas to forested watercolors and drawings of flora and fauna. According to Storme, an unexpected theme also emerged: Turtles.

"Their response was tremendous," Storme said.

A.G. Bell art teacher Michelle Lustgarten, Juanita Elementary art docent Laura Stanger and Juanita High art teacher Lois Judd met and whittled down nearly 800 student art works into a portfolio of 100 and handed them off to Storme.

After getting help from Kathy Feek and the Kirkland Cultural Council to narrow down the amount of artwork even further, they returned to him with the suggestion of using most of the remaining art on the banners - so that's exactly what Storme and fellow banner committee members did.

The banners were made by local designer JJ Graphics and Signs with significant help from owner Jody Ingram, whose son also goes to school at A.G. Bell.

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