Client: New Roads Elementary School
Location: Los Angeles, CA, United States
Completion date: 2011
Artwork budget: $6,500
Jacqueline Olivier Ed.D.
Director, New Roads Elementary School
(Recycled porcelain tile, bicycle parts / 9' x 15.5' x 1'; PVC painted letters / 9″ x 356″ x .5″)
The mural on the building facade publicly identifies New Roads Elementary School while playing off its name. The school’s mission and curricular focus on social justice and environmental sustainability is reinforced through use of recycled porcelain tiles and discarded children’s vehicles donated by the school’s families. The artwork intentionally complements the school’s urban industrial architecture. Above the parking lot, a phrase taken from the school’s mission statement appears in low relief letters mounted to the wall.
The Wizard of Oz’ yellow brick road is referenced as is the metaphor of one’s unique journey on the road of life. The first taste of independent mobility comes with the mastery of riding a bicycle in one’s elementary school years. The metaphor is made all the more potent and relevant by using the student’s actual bicycles. Children’s mastery of language (letter identification, reading and writing) that occurs in elementary school is also honored. A sense of playfulness remains with mounted bicycle wheels that passersby can still spin. (Many students now do so as a daily ritual.)
Community involvement was key to creating a sense of ownership and pride. The school’s Beautification Committee, composed of parents and school director, approved the artwork proposal. A metal fabricator and school father contributed great care and technical expertise to shape and join the letter pieces without damaging the metal and thereby losing the individual bicycle’s history. The children clearly recognize their specific donated vehicle.
Since the artwork’s inauguration, the site has become a ‘photo op’ location for documenting family and school events. Photos of the artwork routinely appear in school e-mail announcements, videos and printed promotional materials. The school’s director has commented that prospective families on tours express how the artwork positively conveys the school’s ‘spirit’. Neighbors in the surrounding residential area now finally identify the building as a school.