As Coronado High School (CHS) students enter their campus, they are met with various art pieces from Islanders past and present. After daily viewing and growing accustomed to the culture of artistic creativity on campus, the art is not out of the ordinary to students.
While staring at the large mural on the side of the 300 building, the question, “Who is she?” racked a few Islanders minds recently (myself included). There are over seventeen art installations on campus, each with its own history. So I decided to check them out.
Student art installations appear throughout Coronado before one even steps foot on campus. Over 20 years ago, the Spreckels Park “Concert in the Park” mosaic mural near the restroom building was created by Coronado mosaic artist Kirstin Green with help from Coronado School of the Arts (CoSA) students. By using skills in the mosaic medium, the durable piece has withstood years of weather and has been a backdrop in many Concert in the Park pictures. There are also the many ‘wrapped’ utility boxes throughout the island – Art Outside the Box – whose art was designed by students back in 2018.
When entering the high school campus through the sage green gates, one doesn’t have to walk more than two feet before finding student artwork.
“Shredder” was painted in 2011 and, like many of the other art pieces on campus, encapsulates the classic California aesthetic felt in this beach town. The mural resides next to the gates for students to see as soon as they enter campus.
As students leave campus they are met with an artistic goodbye from artist Kelcey Fisher. This piece is a large mural on the balcony of the 700 building using a combination of mirror shards reflecting light and cool-toned paint.
As students walk towards the CoSA buildings, they are met with one of the biggest murals, also by Fisher. Made in 2015, the face in the mural has stared at plenty of students walking to-and-from class. Unfortunately, the impacts of sun and weather are beginning to show with fading and flaking paint.
Continuing an art tour around CHS one finds numerous mosaic installations. One of the earliest includes a mosaic mural embedded on the 700 building wall. Dedicated to Jill Hardman by the CHS Visual Arts Class of 2006, this piece, called “The Sweet Piece,” depicts sea life.
The next mosaic we find, affectionately dubbed “the CoSA stairs,” leads to the dance and digital arts classrooms and is decorated with perfectly-placed blue, gold, and black tiles. Yet again working under the direction of mosaic artist Kirstin Green, student artists worked on this for five months before it was unveiled in May 2016. It is titled “Jazz Hands” and is dedicated to CHS art teacher, Laura Hill.
The “River of Giving” is one of the largest art installations on campus and is another mosaic created through collaborative efforts with Kirstin Green, Laura Hill, ceramic instructor Eric Rempe, and of course CHS students. It can be found by the stairway near the 400 building.
A fun aspect of this piece is how it continues to ‘grow’ over the years. New ceramic plaques are added to honor generous donors and Islander families who’ve impacted the campus.
Watch this cool Time Lapse video of the River of Giving.
After passing the “River of Giving” and entering the CHS library, one finds the “Roots of Wonder.” Artists started this piece before the COVID-19 pandemic. After nearly four years of hard work, the piece was officially installed in the 2021-2022 school year. There were many difficulties for this project, like preserving pre-lockdown ceramic pieces and CHS’s schedule changing to a 4×4 system. Ultimately, four different groups of students tried to complete the piece by taking on what others had left behind. The finished project is has a mix of mosaic and ceramic elements creating a large tree branching out.
As students wait in line for lunch, they are met with intricate and “out of this world,” overhead mosaic art piece. The archway installation is titled, “Somewhere, Something Incredible is Waiting to be Known” and was created with the help Green, Hill, and Rempe.
Artists have created statues in front of the 500 building that can be seen as one strolls to Pre-Calculus or AP World History.
One statue is a surf board dedicated to beloved Coronado surf coach Stan Searfus. The artists, who called themselves “Stan’s Squad,” finished the piece in 2018. Each panel on the board has an image of an iconic Coronado scene: 3C lifeguard tower, Navy ships, the Shores buildings, and an aerial view of Coronado.
There’s another statue next to the surfboard that follows an under-the-sea theme. Many orange fish are stacked on one another, which makes the title “Fish Friends” (2018) work perfectly. Fish Friends is dedicated to John Coolidge, the CHS Garden Club, and CSF.
There are currently two tiki sculptures on campus which promote the Islander school pride. One was gifted by the Ralston and Woodworth families in memory of fallen Islanders. The second was presented by the student body of 1961-1962.
Finally, a favorite student tradition that isn’t technically school-affiliated art: “The Rock.” The senior class often spray paints “The Rock” throughout the year, like during the Powderpuff football game in the spring.
As the school year has picked up, there has been talk of more installations. Nothing is concrete yet, but the artists would love a mural on the brick walls facing Sixth Street.
However, the process for installing new artwork is much more complicated than in previous years. If artists wants a piece on the school’s exterior, they’d have to coordinate alongside the City’s Arts Commission and have students present ideas at a city council meeting. Even for on-campus work, students and teacher would have to attend district meetings with administration to discuss site-improvement plans.
There will also be continuations to past installations, like last year’s AP Portfolio Students permanent piece in the CHS library. Installing three more pieces on the rest of the library walls is on the agenda for artists. Each will match the timeless “surfer” and “island-life” theme last spring’s piece has. One of the three remaining will be hung over winter break and is dedicated to a (currently) secret recipient.
Even with new art projects taking a while to get approval, created, and unveiled, it is always a joy to see student artists dedicated and proud of their work.