Turning blank spaces into wonder wallsby dan pine, j. staff
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There’s been an outbreak of mural-mania on the Peninsula.
All three are easy on the eyes.
The biggest is the Grow Justice mural at the Peninsula JCC in Foster City. Measuring 12 feet tall by a whopping 127 feet long, the mural adorns an outdoor wall along the JCC’s new Justice Garden, making it one of the most visible spots on the campus.
“We really wanted to add a new vitality and to repurpose this space in an active way,” said PJCC cultural arts director Kimberly Gordon. “For ten years the wall had nothing.”
On Oct. 20, the JCC threw a coming out party for the mural. More than 150 people attended, marveling at the colorful meditation on the Jewish value of tzedek, or justice.
“We had seven Jewish text-based design workshops in July,” Gordon said. “You can’t just draw ‘justice,’ so we divided it up into four sections.”
The section topics are environmental stewardship, human rights, fighting poverty and food justice. “We realize we have a real learning opportunity now,” Gordon added. “So many d’var Torah [Bible lessons] are in this work of art.”
The mural, which is 8 feet tall and 30 feet wide, depicts the Seven Species of Israel, those being wheat, barley, grapes, figs, olives, pomegranates and dates. The Hebrew words shalom, kavod and achryut (which mean peace, respect and responsibility) were painted on top.
It may feature only seven species but it took an estimated 40,000 ceramic hand-cut tiles to bring the mural to life. Meyer recruited K-8 students, along with parents and staff, to create it.
“I found some beautiful tiles,” she said. “The kids had gloves and goggles, and they smashed up the tile with hammers.”
Yet to be unveiled is a mosaic project that is underway at Kehillah Jewish High School in Palo Alto. Once it is completed, everyone will be able to see the colorful 22-by-5-foot mural on the Fabian Way wall outside the school.
It features the name of the school along with Jewish symbols such as a shofar and a ram (the ram being Kehillah’s mascot).
Jennifer Idleman teaches art at the school and helped spearhead the project. She said it began as an art tefillah project, tefillah meaning “prayer” in Hebrew.
That was more than a year ago. Work on the mural has been slow but steady, and in November, the students and faculty held a special event to celebrate all the work that had been done up to that point, namely, gluing down all of the glass and ceramic pieces to create 36 mosaic panels. Now all that needs to be done is some grouting work and putting the panels together.
“By the time we get it up on the wall it will be two years since we started,” Idleman noted. “There were 20 or so students involved. The kids want the school to be a more visible part of the community.”
As an artist, Idleman has made mosaics in the past, so she helped her students through the creative process. But not too much.
“I have done very little of the actual piecemeal work,” she said. “My job has been to show them how to cut the pieces, how it will look best, then turn them loose. The kids are super invested in it.”