Artists reveal concepts for Skyline School art installations

A rending of the proposed mosaic mural at Skyline School.

At the Feb. 13 board meeting, the Solana Beach School District board gave the thumbs up to conceptual designs for art installations to help beautify Skyline School. The proposed artwork will jazz up the columns in front of the administration and theater buildings and bring colorful sea and sky scenes to the fence line, bike lockers and the alcove under the school sign.

The proposed budget for the art installations is $73,000 and former board member Rich Leib will be leading the fundraising effort in the community in the coming months.

Last year the district sent out a request for artist submissions and in October they picked local artists Helen Segal, Tanya Bredehoft, Annika Nelson and Marina Alberti to come up with conceptual designs for the school that features prominently on Lomas Santa Fe Boulevard.

Marina, a senior at San Dieguito Academy High School, has experience in public art projects such as Arts Alive Encinitas banners on Coast Highway 101, painted electrical boxes in Cardiff, and a mural at Flower Hill Promenade.

Nelson is a Cardiff artist who has received a number of commissions for public art installations ranging from murals to a sculpture series at the Tidelands Park in Coronado and fish-themed bike racks in Leucadia. For the Skyline project, Nelson is working as part of a team with Bredehoft, an industrial designer who owns Artefact Interpretive Design Studio in Cardiff.

Segal, a former Carmel Valley resident who now lives in Escondido, has done several large-scale mosaic installations, including pieces at San Diego Jewish Academy, the fountain and sculpture of three dancing forms in Torrey Hills Center and the “Tree of Life” Holocaust memorial at Congregation Beth El in La Jolla.

The artists worked with Skyline teacher Debbie Hacker to involve students in coming up with ideas for their campus. The artists introduced themselves with short videos and a poem by Segal issued a “call to creativity” on the theme of “From Sea to Sky”: “Whether paintbrush, pencil, crayon or pen, From your inspiration our creation will stem!”

“The students just went with it with unparalleled gusto,” said Segal who, along with her fellow artists, later met with the students during lunch to see their “heartwarming” and “inspiring” designs of sea scenes, fish and dolphins—the school mascot -- the otter -- showed up a lot.

The artists then formulated their ideas based on the students’ work, as much as possible finding ways to incorporate student involvement.

The columns, to be painted by Marina, will represent a colorful underwater scene with a transition from coral reef to open waters to waves on the horizon and a sunset-lit sky.

“In the open waters, students will have a chance to leave their mark at Skyline as the background will consist of student handprints in a variety of blue shades,” Segal said.

On the open waters, Marina will paint sea animals inspired by the student drawings such as otters, dolphins, turtles, schools of fish and sea stars.

Nelson and Bredehoft’s Pacific Ocean kelp forest metal sculpture will be mounted to the fence by the school entrance monument on the east side of the campus. The piece showcases five to six feet tall kelp strands and suspended fish painted by the community that will swivel to catch the light. A sun and moon above the kelp forest ties into the sky theme.

A rendering of the proposed fenceline installation at Skyline School.

Segal’s mosaic installation will be in the alcove area under the new Skyline sign.

“I chose a very circular, organic wave design to offset the linear architecture,” Segal said of the piece that will include an otter on the wave, birds in the sky. Segal will encourage the community to contribute pieces of glass and tile to be included in a bas-relief seabed at the foot of the piece.

The bike lockers on the west side of campus will serve as podiums for Segal’s sculptures of a turtle, octopus and dolphin.

“Even though we are using diverse materials there will be a natural, unified quality in the art installation,” said Segal. “The use of light, vibrant colors in combination with the whimsy and fun the students introduced through their renditions which we have interpreted in our designs, will create that cohesion.”

As part of their presentation, the artists also included options that can be added on based on the amount of funds that are raised, including painting the bike lockers with scenes to enhance the sculptures above, painted metal waves around the alcove and more metalwork fish or kelp along the fence line as an extension of the kelp forest. These options would be an additional $17,000.

“It’s phenomenal, it truly is,” remarked SBSD President Julie Union. “The art is beautiful, it’s whimsical, it’s student driven and the proposed budget is reasonable.”

The artwork is just one part of improvements for Skyline, all stemming from suggestions that came from a community group called “Growing into our New School Building.” The group met last year to come up with ways to beautify Skyline after hearing some concerns about the look of the new campus since it opened in 2018.

Last year the district put funds toward additional landscaping on the site and changes to the school sign. As the community group pointed out, the old Skyline sign was not the same font, height or size as the two signs marking the administration building and theater. The sign that frames a niche that includes a lock box and gas meter, was also the only curvature feature on the frontage.

As a result of recommendations from the community group, the signage was changed to blue rather than black, straight rather than curved and the letters were pin-mounted, underlined and backlit. It is the hope that the niche that the sign frames will be significantly enhanced by the proposed mosaic wave mural.