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June 5, 2018 > Fremont school to unveil colorful mosaic mural

Fremont school to unveil colorful mosaic mural

Submitted By Kathleen McCabe-Martin

Some people walk by a bank?s white wall every day and take no notice of it; others walk by and envision the dancing colors of a community mural. That is exactly what mosaic artist Kathleen McCabe-Martin did. More than seven years later, her vision has become a reality. McCabe-Martin, a long-time teacher at Mission San Jose Elementary (MSJE), used her artistic talents and the help of hundreds of other community members, students, and teachers to transform that blank wall into a gorgeous symbol of love and community.

Speaking of her first encounter with the medium, McCabe-Martin recalls walking down Niles Boulevard and seeing a flowerpot ?mosaicked in shiny black tile. I thought, that looks beautiful, and easy to make!? After taking multiple mosaic classes in the US and Europe, McCabe-Martin now knows that mosaics are not easy and take an artistic and creative expertise as well as lots of experience.

The mural began life in 2011 as a two-panel mosaic decorated with the handprints of kindergarten, first and second grade students. Students in grades 3-6, as well as faculty, added hand-drawn tiles to the mix, and dozens of volunteers helped paint, fix, fire, and glaze more than 650 tiles. McCabe-Martin?s initial assessment of mosaic?s ?ease? evolved as she learned deeply about the art form, took classes and honed her skills. ?Problem-solving was difficult,? at times McCabe-Martin acknowledges. But, ?The volunteers were wonderful, and the mosaic art got better and better. The mural was the best teacher I ever had.?

From that initial installment the project grew and evolved as McCabe-Martin added new elements each year. A mustang rampant below Mission Peak was incorporated in 2012, a nod to MSJE?s mascot. A particularly central and striking portion of the mural, this section was created with the help of every child at the school: each placed at least one tile on the wall, helping to complete the project in June 2013. With the three main walls of the multipurpose room now complete, McCabe-Martin turned her attention to the 18 remaining wall sections, designating each one to a different grade or theme, bringing to beautiful fruition designs that students themselves helped design.

In the final two years of the project, panels were added to acknowledge and celebrate different aspects of MSJE?s excellence, including in chess and basketball. The project culminated in a section McCabe-Martin describes as the most challenging and rewarding: The Tree of Knowledge, an intricate depiction of a tree bearing fruit emblazoned with education-themed words in 25 different languages. The Byzantine style of the piece reflects McCabe-Martin?s mosaic studies in Ravenna, Italy and brings together her long journeys as both an educator and artist.

Principal Chuck Graves played a vital role by securing funding for the project through the MSJE PTC, providing scheduling support and securing all the necessary district approvals.

Filled with inspiration and hidden treasures, and using materials that range from traditional tile, Italian gold and glass Smalti, handmade tiles from Creative Growth in Oakland, stain glass, glass, and found objects, the mural reflects MSJE and Fremont itself as a melting pot of art, creativity and diversity.


Mural Ribbon Cutting Ceremony
Thursday, June 7
10 a.m.
Mission San Jose Elementary School
43545 Bryant St., Fremont
Admission: Free
(510) 219-0126

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