Guest artist Elizabeth Raybee, a mosaic and mural artist from Ukiah, Willits High School instructor Carolyn Bakewell, and a team of WHS students have created a mosaic mural for the WHS Peace Garden.
Article & Photo by Ree Slocum (Willits Weekly)
Students in Bakewell’s ceramics class, as well as other students at Willits High, have been involved in the two-month project. Funding was provided through a Arts Council of Mendocino County’s “Get Arts in the Schools Program” grant. Raybee’s mosaic art also graces the big pedestal at the Willits Skate Park on East Commercial Street.
The “Peace Garden” mural is a part of a larger project which began last September when the Rotary Club donated an International Peace Pole to WHS. The tall black-and-white pole has the sentiment “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in eight languages. It was decided to make a home for the Peace Pole by creating a beautiful garden setting on the school grounds.
For the project the ceramics students were asked to make tiles of different colors to be used for the central mosaic scene designed by Bakewell and Raybee. And for the first time, students also got to design and create their own 10 inch by 10 inch tiles using mosaic to create images and words to illustrate what “peace” meant to them.
Bakewell had her ceramics students make all the tiles for the project. To make the slab, they took clay and rolled it through a slab roller, then cut it to size. If it was for the central design, they chose glaze colors and fired the tile. When it was for their personal tile, they made a rough draft of their drawing and learned how to transfer it to the tile. The tiles went through two firings, the last one being the
glaze firing. Because of the more involved process, it took longer to finish the mural than expected, but the results are stunning.
Students glued the mosaic tiles, creating the bucolic 6 foot by 10 foot scene onto a backing. The awkward and heavy piece of art was transferred to a frame base made by Brian Bowles from the school’s construction department, along with his assistant and former student, Noah Southwick, and his current students, Nicholas, Elijah and Alton. Bowles’ crew and others took turns using caulking and screws to hold the two pieces together. Later the individual student mosaics were also caulked and screwed down to the frame base. Students enjoyed taking part in these activities. It seemed like there was something to do for everyone.
The Peace Garden is being constructed between the back door to the art classroom, the media center’s back wall, and the parking lot. Currently the almost barren, triangular piece of ground is framed by walkways, walls, and the parking lot.
In a conversation with art teacher Bakewell, she revealed her unfolding vision of the new garden: “It’ll be a peace garden / sculpture garden / reading garden. The mosaic will go on the media center’s first wall. We plan to put painted murals on other walls. There’ll be a meandering path with
a beautiful fountain to welcome birds and butterflies. We might put up a lattice wall covered with flowering plants to block out the cars and parking lot.”
This appealing vision will be developed and coordinated with Becky Bowlds from the agriculture department, Bowles from the construction department, and Bakewell from the art department. “We all want a better place for kids to hang out,” said Bakewell.
Students will learn invaluable skills while working to make the garden a reality. Many are already taking pride in being a part of the mural project. Some are enjoying the fact that they’ll return in the future to see the mural and their own square, and will reminisce about being part of a project to bring beauty and peace to their high school.