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The Gift of Art

An SDSU professor and her students help beauitfy a local school.
Janet Cooling and her student's art will be featured at Harriet Tubman Village Charter School. Photos courtesy of Henrike Blumenfeld.
Janet Cooling and her student's art will be featured at Harriet Tubman Village Charter School. Photos courtesy of Henrike Blumenfeld.

San Diego State University art professor and professional artist Janet Cooling donated her time and a work of art to the Harriet Tubman Village Charter School located less than two miles from SDSU.

Cooling, who lives in the neighborhood, contacted the principal to offer her art for the exterior of the building. Working with San Diego Unified School District, Cooling’s art became a donation of public art.

“Gentrification of the area begins with bringing art to the area and helping the students have pride in their school,” Cooling said.

“My goal is to honor these students
with a beautiful environment.”

The school population is nearly 85 percent Somalian, and Cooling’s contemporary and graffiti-like art is reminiscent of a port town experience, and a perfect link between Somalia and San Diego.

The painting is meant to evoke the experience of a tilting ship in the rolling seas on a bright moonlit night. With a ghost ship in the upper right of the painting and the rolling sea patterns, the flat yellow geometric shape represents the beams of the light house guiding the ship to safety.

The Process

The painting was completed years ago. For the mosaic project, it was converted to a blue print the size of the mural — 17 feet by 7 feet. The blue print was cut into 30 inch by 30 inch squares and affixed to backer board onto which the mosaic tiles and glass pieces were attached.

Twenty-five undergraduate students from SDSU and the artist worked for months to create the mosaic in the artist’s home studio. While their time was donated, the students held an art auction to raise funds to buy supplies such as backer board, glue, glass cutters and goggles.

A real-world experience

The project provided them exposure to the business side of the world of art.

Raising funds, working with contracts and managing installation planning and details are all part of an artist’s professional repertoire and skills often taught first-hand. Students were on hand for installation and were able to experience the principal, students and families response to the art.

“My goal is to honor these students with a beautiful environment,” Cooling said. “Mosaic is ideal for an exterior installation. I build my mosaics using archival materials and craftsmanship dating back to the 13th century. It should require little maintenance and retain timeless beauty.”

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