"The idea is (the art) is a passageway," Archibald said.
The two 30-by-15 foot murals are in a hallway window leading to the commons area of the school and underneath a bridge.
The artist incorporated features important to Arlington and the surrounding area including bridges, rivers, dikes and aqueducts.
At a deeper level, the work suggests images of transition: from adolescence to adulthood, from a machine-driven era to a digital one. Archibald imbeds images of society's evolution from an industrial age to a technological one with digital highways, circuitry and information webs.
"I don't want to be too metaphorical with this. It's Rorschach," said Archibald, who compares the viewer's ability to interpret this piece in any number of ways to the abstract inkblots used in psychology. "It's up to them to come up with the interpretation."
While the first panels of glass were being installed, students would ask Archibald about the piece's meaning. "I'd say, 'What do you think it means?' Some saw a time tunnel, others saw something circular you step through.
"Whether it's kids or adults, their interpretation is as valuable as mine."
The first mural was installed this month, the other half should be completed in the next several months.
Archibald spent several months designing the piece. Glass fabricators from The Glass Cottage in Arlington created the stained glass pieces based on the artist's design. The mural uses mouth-blown antique glass and contains nearly 1,000 glass bevels, which maximize outside light.
The state paid for the $60,000 project as part of the Art in Public Places program. The money comes from the state's capital construction budget. Half of 1 percent of construction budgets for state-owned buildings goes toward art.
An Arlington High School committee chose Archibald from a pool of about 800 Washington artists.
"The artwork brings color, vibrancy and life" to a building with an institutional feel, he said.
Taking on a public art project comes with responsibility, Archibald said. "You would like to think you're beautifying the place, but if you screw up, you've put a black eye on the public art project."
Archibald, who has a private studio on Camano Island, began creating stained glass in the late 1970s. He's completed other large-scale projects nationally and locally, including the clockworks at the Everett Transit Station.
Glass fabricator Bill Kueny installs glass panels for artist Jack Archibald's "Bridge" at Arlington High School.