SDA art project goes on a unique journey

In a project that truly represents the innovative learning and student expression that San Dieguito Academy fosters, a group of more than 30 students last week moved Ozzie the Seahorse — a 7-foot-mosiac sculpture — across campus to its temporary display spot in the school’s northwest corner.

What was notable about the Nov. 3 event was the way the kids, who were supervised by sculpture teacher Jerm Wright, transported Ozzie, opting to spend several hours rolling the sculpture all the way through campus on PVC pipes rather than calling for a forklift.

“We put (Ozzie the Seahorse) onto a wooden platform, then got these (4-inch) thick plastic pipes and then rolled it around the entire school,” junior Lily Nguyen told the Encinitas Advocate. “We had a small assembly line, with people pulling the pipes (from the back), people passing them over (to the front) and then people laying them down.”

Wright said the project was special because it allowed the students to put several areas of learning into practice.

“We didn’t only have the artwork part, but the moving was an event. It wasn’t just an art project, it became a physics project, a P.E. project, we had a kid from the video class film it, we had photography and we had the silkscreen department (making shirts for the moving day volunteers), that was pretty neat,” Wright explained. “Having the custodian move it with a forklift would be boring. Plus, it was awesome as a teacher to see them (working together to do the task). All of these kids had a really neat experience. It was hard work.”

The route was a bit longer due to having to navigate around the construction on campus, but it was that very construction that had spurred Wright and his students to build the sculpture in the first place. SDA is famous for its many student-created murals around campus, but with buildings being rebuilt, there wasn’t a spot for a permanent mural.

So, in January of 2014, SDA students Trevor Anderberg and Chloe Griffin came up with the shape — half sea horse and half mermaid is the best way to describe it — and led an effort to put together the foam sculpture that forms Ozzie’s core. It was then covered with cement and chicken wire, and current students have spent the past year covering the cement with distinctive tiles in a mosaic style.

“Many hands have worked on this, probably a couple hundred kids have put on at least one tile,” Wright said. “I really like this thing that, when kids have a part in something, whether they are an artist or not and now it’s on campus, they can look at it and say ‘I’m a part of that.’

“And it represents our school. All of these kids are very different, they bring something different to the table. And the fact that it is sort of this mystery animal, the students are kind of like that too.”

Junior Shannon McGuire said the artwork, and experience moving it, was empowering to her and her fellow students. After more than three hours rolling Ozzie into place, the group spent another hour gingerly lifting it up and off the wood platform, then unveiled it in front of schoolmates at the end of the day.

“It was cool because it wasn’t like (Mr. Wright) just planned (the moving effort), he let all of us plan it and he was just there to OK it,” McGuire explained. “And just in making (the sculpture), it was a completely-student led thing. He guided us through the steps, but we did it.”

Nguyen was proud of the effort the students put in and is happy their artwork will be there for years to come.

“I don’t think it’s something you’d see at other schools, the different pieces really represent the different parts of our school. Our community is kind of weird and strange, in a good way,” she said. “It was a good bonding experience, with lots of teamwork and it will be great to (come back) someday and see it still there.”