Artwork unveiled at new Tahoma High School featuring former graduates

Kicking off a much-anticipated week of open houses, tours of the new Tahoma High School (THS), a ribbon cutting ceremony, and more, was a special gala event held in honor of two Tahoma High School graduates – Tom Ourada, Class of 1987, and Iris Scott, Class of 2002 – whose one-of-a-kind pieces of artwork designed with Bears and the natural surroundings in mind were patiently waiting for their much-anticipated unveiling on Tuesday, August 7.

As guests arrived, they were treated to some easy listening guitar music in the Commons area of the school provided by Tahoma Middle School teacher Paul Johnson, together with hors d’oeuvres created by Picasso Catering of Tacoma. Guests were also encouraged to wander the building where they were able to admire many photos from the past as well as the beauty of nature surrounding the Maple Valley area.

Moments before the first unveiling of the wooden stairs and bench created by Tom Ourada, THS Principle Terry Duty stated about the new THS, “Generations have built this.” Speaking about past generations having a part in what was happening today, he continued to let everyone know that there was something for all students to create for their future in the largest high school in Washington State.

After being introduced by Duty, Ourada reflected on the thought process he began while creating in his mind what his contribution would be to his Tahoma Bears alma mater. As he pondered his creation, he thought about the influences students came across as they traveled through their school years, and it reminded him of a river with various logjams and stops along the way. Thinking about logjams, he could not help but consider how the jams were good. After all, jams help to polish people as they bump against one another through the currents of life.

Raised in the east hill area of Kent, Ourada came to the Hobart area in the early 1980s with his parents, brother and sister. Interest in drawing started at an early age. As a teen, he was drawing everything from portraits to cars to buildings to 3-D renderings and cutaways.

After graduating from THS in 1987, he took a few years off school to work in residential remodeling construction. Making a huge impact on Ourada’s life, remodeling contractor Paul Padilla of Maple Valley, encouraged him to go back to school, so he did just that. Not only did he receive his AA degree, but he went on to receive a BS in Psychology with minors in Chemistry and Physics from University of Washington, as well as a Masters in Teaching – all while continuing to work in construction.

As far as a career in teaching went, the closest he got was student teaching at a junior high. Ourada learned from that experience that paperwork was definitely not his cup of tea. He loved the kids, but the paperwork – not so much.

Friends for several years before dating and then marriage, Tom and Val (Dauzenroth), a 1990 THS graduate herself, took a trip to Nine Mile Falls (near Spokane). Falling in love with the area, they decided to purchase a piece of land and move their young family (son and daughter), where they continue to live today.
Having joined his brother in Spokane, the two decided to join their talents of working with floors and remodeling to start the Thomas Michael Hardwood Flooring Company. Then it was after building his own house that Ourada realized he wanted to do more… something special. He had a fallen large, curved pine log on his property.   He saw something special in that log. After milling it at his friend’s place, he put together his own unique wood floor – and the rest they say is history.

Becoming known around the world after receiving a Floor of the Year award for that very floor from the National Hardwood Flooring Assoc., Ourada went on the next year to receive two additional awards. However, the Floor of the Year award was very special to him as it was achieved by a vote of all the worldwide members of the Association. He received further honors when his Buck and Barbed Wire floor made it to the cover of the Hardwood Flooring magazine.

Contacted by Duty through the recommendation of Mike Hanson, Shadow Lake Principal and long-time friend of Ourada, he was given free rein to create a wood artwork for the new high school. As he unveiled his benches, guests’ eyes opened wide to take in the whole magnitude of the one of a kind created woodwork that are expected to get a lot of use by the students. Excited about sharing his work, Ourada pointed out many of the hidden features such as bears, trout, salmon, a fly for fly fishermen, an 87 representing the year he graduated, streams heading up to draw the eye to the next featured piece of artwork by Iris Scott.
With a keen interest in art from the time she was 7 years old, Scott spent many an hour poring over art books and practicing artwork. Encouraging her along the way were her parents that she fondly refers to as two American hippies.

Her parents met in the late 1970’s in Santa Rosa, CA, and after making a decision to move to the state of Washington to start their family, the couple found their way to Maple Valley and settled in. Blessed with two little girls (with Scott popping into this world in her family’s living room), the family enjoyed life at the end of a long dirt driveway hidden amongst the lush area woodland.

Growing up, Scott enjoyed both self-employed parents working at home with her father building cabinets in a shop attached to the house, and her mother teaching piano lessons from the home office. “Creativity flourished inside and outside the home,” beamed Scott when describing her upbringing.

Not plugged into television or other devices, Scott enjoyed plenty of time with pets such as parrots, lizards, bunnies, dogs, cats, goats, horses, chickens, and the occasional orphaned wild animal – as well as her own flourishing mind. It was during the rainy days that prime opportunities opened for her to practice her drawings that often times involved copying photographs of horses and cartoons.

Although she was tapped at an early age as being gifted, Scott wrinkles up her nose and will be the first to let everyone know that “…my only gift was my passion to practice, and my intrinsic motivation to focus on getting better at drawing.” Encouraged by her teachers in the Tahoma School District regarding her artwork, she went on to receive a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Washington State University and later a Masters in Teaching K-8, but never became a teacher.

It was during her junior year of college that she went to Florence to study for a year. Then in 2009-2010 with schoolwork behind her, Scott was off to Taiwan for another year of dedicating her time to practicing painting. Living out of a backpack in a tiny studio in Kaohsiung, Taiwan and stocked up on art supplies, her goal was to paint 7 days a week. Little did she know that her life was about to change and her artistic life take off – with just a brush of her finger.

Scott’s freedom releasing discovery happened quite by accident through the tip of her finger. Up against her brushes being stained with dark blue oil paint and the need to change to yellow, she was at a crossroad. The decision – forget washing the brushes, or use the fingertips. And a star was born as she finished the painting with her fingertips enjoying the thickness of the oils and applying the paint at a thicker level. The next day she went out to purchase surgical gloves, which took the place of her brushes as she fully embraced finger painting.

Since that moment in 2010, Scott has become the first artist to make finger painting a career, sparking a movement that has reached global levels. Wanting to share her discovery of finger painting with others, Scott wrote an instructional book that has sold tens of thousands of copies.

Moving to New York in 2013, Scott works and lives with her cat, Foxy, in a renovated 3rd floor loft in downtown Brooklyn that was once a mattress factory. Because of her unusual painting technique with its bright, vibrant colors and optimistic feeling, she has caught the eye of the world press in such publications as Forbes, Barron’s, USA Today, and CBS New York. Originals hang in four galleries, while her global collectors include Microsoft, CocaCola, and Children’s Hospital. According to Scott, prints of her work are shipped to 5 continents each day.

When the call came in from Duty asking if she would like to do a special piece for the new high school, Scott jumped at the opportunity. Next decision – what theme to do. Off to Photoshop where rendering after rendering passed through a couple of weeks of planning and options including bears with fish in their mouths, tearing apart the fish, to two bears fighting and more. Finally, she hit upon the thought of focus – focusing on one’s passion and committing to something.

For the unveiling of Scott’s much anticipated piece of artwork, guests made their way to the new performance center. When finally unveiled, the theater was filled with oohs and ahs and applause, for Arctos, which means bear. Asked about what it took to put the painting together, Scott stated 20 painting hours over the course of one week. Prior to painting, the painting planning took her 3 weeks of sketching.  The project is also made of all oils, all finger-painted and used approximately 10-20 tubes of paint.

Each of the donors received a canvas print of Arctos with each being different depending on the splatter paint pattern applied to the prints. Scott also donated 250 signed limited-edition paper prints of Arctos to the Tahoma Schools Foundation, which is selling them to raise funds that will be used to help students for programs such as kindergarten camp, We the People, and robotics. The first night alone 100 plus prints were sold.

Meanwhile, Arctos along with Ourada’s wooden steps and bench look forward to the arrival of everyone at the new THS on Wednesday, September 6, where they stand as daily reminders of what can be accomplished beyond each student’s high school days.

All expenses for the event including the artwork and food were paid by the Platinum Donors: Cayce Grove Law Offices, Cory McDonough – One.7, Inc, Tina McDonough – Re/Max, The Mjelde Family, Pacific Lighting Systems, Joshua & Staci Lyons, The Cloud Family, The Sherrell Family, Thrive Community Fitness, Flynn Development Inc., Ed & Barbara Kennedy, and Skanska USA.

For more information on Tom Ourada, please see his website at:

For Iris Scott, see her website at: