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Nature art opens Olympic dreams for Tigard students

by: Jonathan House, UNDERWATER ADVENTURE — (From left) Andrea Fisher, 16, and Sterling Mier, 7, both took first place in their grade levels in a national Wyland-sponsored art contest. Now, the students have a chance to travel to China in August to work with the renowned artist at the summer Olympics.

TIGARD - If everything goes as planned, Tigard school students Andrea Fisher and Sterling Mier will join the jet set of our nation's great competitors in August as they ply their skills at the 2008 Olympics in China.

But for Fisher and Mier, the fruits of their abilities will not play out on a basketball court or baseball diamond.

For them, it will resonate within the brushstrokes of renowned environmental artist, Wyland, as he creates his 100th 'Whaling Wall' in Beijing's Olympic Village.

Fisher, a sophomore at Tigard High School, and Mier, 7, a first-grader at Durham Elementary School, found out in mid-April that they were winners in a national Wyland-sponsored art contest, called the Clean Water Challenge.

'I think it's really neat how Wyland can be a conservationist and do all the stuff for the environment, but also do it through art as something he really loves,' said Fisher, 16.

Robert Wyland, or typically just 'Wyland,' is best known for his international series of Whaling Walls that portray marine habitat and wildlife at life size. At its core, it is conservation art intended to inspire in its observers awe for the environment.

The U.S. Olympic Committee had earlier named Wyland as the official artist of the national team.

Fisher's work, entitled 'Migration,' is an acrylic blending of under- and above-water worlds, featuring Orcas swimming off the edge of a forested shore, an image she pulled out of her memory from a past vacation to Victoria, B.C.

Mier, who has a grain of shyness and is more comfortable basking in the glow of the just-released Mario Kart video game for Nintendo Wii than in the accolades for his art, crafted a watercolor painting of a sea turtle framed in shimmering ocean blues that he called 'Turtle Bay.'

The placement of Fisher and Mier among the 14 winners, from places as distant as Massachusetts and Hawaii, at the top tier of the Wyland contest has given them the opportunity to travel to China to work first-hand with the artist on the 100th wall.

First, however, they're hoping to drum up sponsorships to help cover travel costs, something their art instructor, Kathy Mier, is now seeking.

Fisher and Mier already traveled to San Diego in mid-April to meet Wyland at the Birch Aquarium upon learning of their painting success.

'He was really nice, and he was fun, and he just seems like a great person,' Fisher said.

Kathy, who is also mother to one daughter and two sons, including Sterling, said her instruction emphasizes conservation and wildlife art.

'When they're young, we do pictures of animals, because that's what they love,' Kathy said.

Kathy teaches salaried art instruction at the private St. Stephens Academy in neighboring Beaverton, though seven years ago she began volunteering her skills in Durham's art literacy classes when her daughter, Madison, started there.

'When my kids went to school, it was an automatic for me,' she said.

Art instruction at the elementary school levels in the Tigard-Tualatin School District is entirely staffed by volunteers, with dedicated staffing kicking in at the middle school grades.

Fisher, who is no stranger to success in naturalist art competitions at the junior level, including first-place wins at the state level for a duck stamp contest the last three years running, has been taking classes with Kathy 'since forever.'

'I did learn a lot before going [into high school],' she said. 'It's nice to have that little jump.'

This is her third national art title.

Anyone interested in helping sponsor Fisher or Sterling's trip to China, contact Kathy Mier at 503-351-5304.