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Mural links students, alumni at Roosevelt

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    Jean Otake of Roosevelt High School’s class of 1960 posed with a new mural in the school courtyard. The ceramic mural was created by Roosevelt students who researched yearbooks from 1932 to 2009 for inspiration.

  • The Class of 1960’s small gift grows into a $31,000 ceramic mural depicting the school’s history.

For their 50th class reunion, members of Roosevelt High School’s Class of 1960 wanted to contribute something to their alma mater in a small way, but it turned into a whopping $31,000 gift, covering a 44-by-11-foot wall.

"We collected $31,000 in materials and cash," said Jean Otake, chairwoman for the project, but added the classmates "contributed in bits and pieces."

The classmates, now 68 years old or so, joined with 74 Roosevelt art students to create a colorful ceramic mural to commemorate the school’s history from 1932 to 2009.

The mural will be dedicated today as part of the Class of ’60’s reunion.

After consulting with Principal Ann Mahi, the project team embraced the idea of a mural that would cover the school’s front entry.

"Roosevelt is in a problem area," Otake said. "One of the art teachers … noticed when the stadium was redone and the auditorium was redone the students identifiably became proud of their school."

There was initial resistance about the decision to donate a piece of art rather than books.

In a poor economy, the group estimated it could collect about $5,000. Instead, as the classmates were kept abreast of the project, donations ranging from $15 to $2,500 continued to roll in from about 200 donors.

"We didn’t have to beg," she said. "We just sent reports."

"They could not imagine that the gift of this art would be so phenomenal," Otake said. "We’re hoping this will give other classes the feeling: ‘If Roosevelt could do it, we could do it.’"

A couple of contractors in the class donated labor and materials.

The class enlisted artist-instructor Jackie Mild Lau, who led the 74 ceramic art students from 9th to 12th grade on a December-to-May project.

"They were skeptical at first," Lau said. "It was hard for them to visualize what it was they were doing."

"Once they glazed and they could see the glazed work, they got a bit more excited," she said. But the project was so huge — 15 panels — the students never saw the mural completely laid out.

The students, in 15 groups, selected images from yearbooks, including a 1933 cartoon from a school paper, lots of football and basketball players, swimmers and lots of old cars from the 1930s and 1940s.

"Some found their parents and grandparents," she said.

The students sketched the images, created the ceramic pieces, had them bisque-fired, glazed them, then had them glaze-fired. They affixed the pieces to 3-by-5-foot boards and grouted the pieces.

The 1960 classmates finished mounting pieces and grouting the edges, and the contractors hung the 75- to 100-pound boards.

Lau said, "I felt that it was an opportunity to take students through the process where they start with nothing, and they end up with a very big reminder of what they can produce, not just for themselves, but for people who came before them and people who will come after them."

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