Noe Valley Voice May 2000

Alvarado School Unveils Mural

In 1968, renowned sculptor Ruth Asawa started an arts program at the local public school her children attended, Alvarado Elementary School. Her son Paul Lanier, age 10 at the time, helped make a boy holding a red balloon that was part of a giant 30-by-15-foot mosaic mural. The mural was installed at the school, and the Alvarado Arts Program continued to blossom, inspiring many other arts projects throughout the city.

Fast forward 30 years: The mural is still the centerpiece of the schoolyard, and Ruth Asawa has spearheaded a public-private partnership to create another monumental art piece for the school. This time, the lead designer is ceramic artist Paul Lanier. And Paul's daughter (a kindergartner at the school) and her schoolmates all worked on the mural in their clay classes. The new 41-by-11-foot sculpted tile mural is a colorful jigsaw of 1,200 tiles, featuring a huge tree alive with birds and insects.

"This mural shows what wonders children can create when working with artists and using their left-brain and right-brain skills," says Alvarado Principal Phyllis Matsuno. "The mural project has had an incredible positive impact not only on the academic achievement of the students, but also on our school spirit."

Matsuno points out that Alvarado is the only public school in San Francisco with a fulltime artist-in-residence working in his own ceramics studio.

In addition to the San Francisco Unified School District, the mural project received support from the California Arts Commission, San Francisco Beautification Fund, Jaqueline Hoeffer, Louise Rosenberg Family Fund, Miranda Lux Foundation, Bothin Foundation, and the Ruth Asawa Fund.

To celebrate their achievement, the Alvarado School family -- including three generations of Asawa-Laniers -- will hold a mural unveiling ceremony on Saturday, May 20, at 2 p.m. The event will take place in front of the mural, located on the Eureka Street side of the school (at 625 Douglass Street).

Noe Valley residents are invited to come applaud the big -- and little -- sculptors who have created an outdoor artwork the whole neighborhood can enjoy.