Client: Sunland Elementary School
Location: Sunland, CA, United States
Completion date: 2016
Artwork budget: $8,000
Debbie Middleton De Jong
This project was commissioned by the school's administration as a memorial for a teacher who had passed on. The teacher worked with special education and was beloved for his ability to make every child feel deeply valued and respected. This was the inspiration for the sunflowers, each beautiful and unique regardless of its specifications, and the flowers approach star shapes suggesting that the uniqueness of the individual is the biggest indicator of what makes them valued, or “stars”.
This project's goals were both to memorialize the deceased teacher and to inspire the students with a vibrant and meaningful original artwork. Community building was another feature of the project and the joyful experience of the parents and neighbors led to many new members of the school's PTA and the local neighborhood association.
The artist Hannah Maximova worked with the school's administration, the LA Unified School District and the bereaved widow when contemplating this project. Once a design had been settled upon the word went out that mosaic volunteers were needed to create the piece. Over a three week period many dozens of parents and community members came together to follow templates and cut and place glass segments that became the mural. After that several dozen parents came together to install the work onto the wall.
This project brought together parents and community members who had previously had no involvement in the school and led them to make lasting commitments to the school's and students' continued success.