Tuesday, July 5, 2011


If you were a book, what would your cover look like? This was the question, more or less, posed to the fourth-grade students at Bay View Elementary in the course of producing the school's latest mural. Created by local artist Katharina Short, the mural, "Reading Broadens Your Horizons," celebrates books and the adventure of reading. Tina designed and painted the main image, but as usual at Bay View, the fourth graders got to participate.

This year, each student's challenge was to design and paint a book cover based on his or her life or family or hobbies, or anything else that popped into their minds. They worked on paperback-sized wooden panels in art class, and the panels were then fastened to the wall surrounding the central image, forming a border of fantasy book covers.

The mural isn't quite finished yet, but the faux "books" have just gone up, and they are completely enchanting! My camera malfunctioned the other day when I went to check it out (okay, I ran down the batteries before I could take the close-ups I wanted to share), but here are some of my favorite titles:

My Life As a Kid, by Jesselle; Why Davenport Rocks, by Isaiah; Me and My Crazy Family, by Kalela Hatfield; Sock Monkey Beach Baby, by Alyssa Pack; The Awesome Hamster, by Isaac Marquez; Life Of Hand, by Jacob Cardenas (featuring a riff on cartoonist Jim Phillips' famous surf hand); How To Become Rich and Famous in El Salvador, by Edward Alfaro. And these are just the ones I could scribble down in a few minutes. There are dozens more, all of them irresistibly illustrated, and so worth the time it takes to search out the mural on the Bay View campus. (Hint: it's way around the back, facing the playing field.)

Oh, to be in fourth grade again! (Seriously; I had a huge crush on my fourth-grade teacher, Mr. Sindak, at Hermosa View Elementary School, Hermosa Beach, but his thing was science, not art, unfortunately for me.) But boy, would I have loved to paint a book cover for this project! In fact I think I'll do it anyway, just for fun, and post it here. Anyone else who wants to create a vision of your life as a book cover, send it to me & I'll post yours too. In the meantime, run don't walk to Bay View and enjoy this new mural. Prepare to be beguiled!

"Day In the Bay," 2005

Btw, the tradition of an annual Bay View mural began in 2005, when the Home and School Club (spearheaded by parents and artists Lynn Guenther and Sandy Cherk) hired artist James Aschbacher (aka Art Boy) to design a mural project that would involve the fourth-graders. They wanted something to dress up the boring bunker-like wall that faced the intersection of Bay Street and Mission, and also let people know there was a school back there, behind the wall.

James envisioned "Day In the Bay," with an underwater theme, and invited every single fourth-grader to draw an undersea creature, which James then composed into a mural-sized design, offsite. As the mural went up, each student came out to paint his or her creation up on the wall. By way of a signature, each student left a handprint on the blue border around the central image—a tradition James has continued with the nine other elementary school murals he's painted with local kids since then.

PS: The Santa Cruz County Office of Education has a great website about local school murals. A little out of date, but still a fascinating overview.

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