Art Challenge Accepted

Parker art students create a professional project in an academic space

By Melissa Beltz

Most of us go to the library focused on taking things out—whether it’s books, copies of reference materials, or multimedia—but 14 Upper School students spent the past year putting something in.

It’s a true work of art.

Walk into the Linda Vista Library these days and you will be greeted by a larger-than-life mobile, that not only beautifies the bright and airy atrium space, but also solved a complex design problem. For this picturesque and purposeful creation, the Parker community has the Advanced 2D Art and Design Class to thank.

“I was very excited to be a part of a large project on Campus,” said Kira Hirsch, Class of 2019 and one of eight Upper School students to lead the project. “It was very cool to work on an art piece that would not only add artistic character to the library, but would also serve as a functional sound barrier.”

The Library provides both a study space and social hub for students on Campus. During flex periods, the space often accommodates more 100 chattering students.

“We wanted to provide a social space and a study space,” said Linda Vista Librarian Ricca Gaus. She and her fellow colleagues designated the upstairs as a quiet space for studying and the downstairs as the social area.

The beautifully designed building featured two atriums in the front and back that let natural light shine through magnificent windows. Although stunning, too much sound traveled from the first floor to the second, much to the dismay of students who use that space to study.

In 2016, Dan Lang, Head of Middle School, and Mike Cain, Director of Risk and Asset Management, approached Gaus and the Upper School Arts Department with an idea to construct a hanging mobile in the front and back atriums that could absorb sound without detracting from the architectural design of the space. With the help of a generous matching grant from the Ellen Browning Scripps Foundation, the Linda Vista Library Soundproofing Project began to take shape.

Art teachers Melanie Taylor and Jaclyn Enck selected about a dozen students from their Advanced 2D Art and Design classes and formed a design team. From there, students learned what it takes to execute a professional design project from start to finish.

“It was a really special opportunity for them—to actually participate in a professional design project in high school is very unusual,” said Taylor.

It was an opportunity students relished. “It was incredibly rewarding,” said Kira, one of the senior designers on the project. The 13 other student-designers included Brendan Kelety ’17; Jeyan Kirtay, Class of 2019; Marco Imbimbo ’17; Gracie Winn, Class of 2019; Yasmeen Abu Khalaf ’17; Isabele Levesque ’17; Camryn Miyahira ’17; and Julie Laporte, Class of 2018; and creative consultants Sofia Heredia ’17; Emma Considine ’17; Elizabeth Thompson ’17; and Greer Sprague ’17.

The project began in September 2016 and continued through the final installation the following April. Students began with a design brief, outlining the scope, timing and budget of the project. This brief was shared with construction vendors, with whom students worked closely throughout the project to ensure the design was safe and up to standard.

The functional art piece had to be designed within the parameters of building and safety codes, including fire and earthquake standards. The mobiles could not swing, spin or sway, nor could they hang within reach of hands.

After brainstorming ideas, the design team decided to bring in some of the scenery outside the library by designing a mobile based on falling leaves. The color scheme grew from there, incorporating not only the blooming trees outside, but also the glass stones and wood accents inside the Library.

The team built rough models to help determine the ideal shape of the objects that hang from the mobiles. Kira said this was one of the most difficult parts of the entire process: “There were so many options!”

After narrowing down the design, students built scale models of the two mobiles and provided exact measurements to San Diego-based Lamvin Acoustical and Soundproofing to laser cut each baffle.

Seaside Specialty Construction of Orange County installed the mobile over Spring Break. The project, which students named, “Cascade,” was unveiled at a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the end of April.

All members of the design team felt a sense of accomplishment. “I learned an art project is a big deal, though not an impossible undertaking. Just a few art students helped to design something so cool!” said Brendan.

Associate Director of Development and Stewardship Amanda Kalal, who helped secure the grant that funded the design project, described it as a true “collaboration between students and faculty,” and acknowledged the impressive accomplishment of the student-led design team.

“I don’t think they realize yet how big of a project they’ve undertaken and completed,” said Kalal. “I think they’ll understand when they come back in a few years as alumni.”
Francis Parker School is a private, independent, coeducational, college preparatory day school for students in Junior Kindergarten through Grade 12 from across San Diego County. Founded in 1912, the Lower School is located on the Mission Hills Campus with the Upper and Middle Schools on the Linda Vista Campus. Parker's mission is to inspire a diverse community of independent thinkers whose academic excellence, global perspective and strength of character prepare them to make a meaningful difference in the world.

Mission Hills Campus Lower School

4201 Randolph Street
San Diego, CA 92103

Linda Vista Campus Middle/Upper School

6501 Linda Vista Road
San Diego, CA 92111
858 / 569-7900