North Davis Preparatory Academy – Pillar Mosaics

Chantal Esquivias is a Spanish teacher at NDPA and a native of Spain. Esquivias loved the school but thought that the building’s facade could be transformed to support the aesthetic point of view of the school’s Spanish immersion program. In early 2011 Esquivias contacted me to create a mosaic mural with the students.

After meeting with me in August, we both decided that decorating the pillars in front of the school, while an incredibly ambitious task, would result in the most transformative experience for the school.

In order to draw inspiration from Spain, I prefaced the brainstorming process of the project by teaching the students the history of mosaic art in Europe, with an emphasis on how Spanish artist Antonio Gaudí’s art was unique in that it was mosaic art that was clearly made of broken-up prefabricated tile (unlike Renaissance mosaics, which tried to look like paintings).

Sketches for the pillars were developed as the students read “Fairy Tales from Spain” by J. Munoz Escamez. Three tales, “The Judgment of the Flowers”, “The Garden of Health”, and “The Treasure of the Dragon” were chosen for depiction. The students summarized the tales, divided the story into its key moments, and created sketches of those moments in the stories. I then assembled the sketches into black and white designs for the mosaics, which the students colored. I then used those color studies to develop the final draft of the design.

The youth went before the school board in October to get the designs approved, and once a week for the next four months the students met with me to assemble the mosaics onto fiberglass mesh. Assembly was completed in January 2012.

Once the climate allowed, I returned to the school to begin installation. The students participated in almost all aspects of installation including mortaring the pillars, applying the mosaics, patching missing tiles, grouting the mosaics, and sealing the grout. Due to the size of the project, installation took about 60 hours, with students from Esquivias and Lucia Pascual’s classes providing most of the student labor.

Funding for the project was provided by Art Access Utah, in connection with the Utah State Office of Education Special Education Services Unit. Additional support funding for the project was supplied by NDPA and POET, the school’s parent organization.

Thanks to the Salt Lake Tribune, the Standard-Examiner and El Observador de Utah (now OK Español) for their reporting on the project.