San Dieguito High School Academy is a celebration of public art. Go around any corner and you’re likely to see a mural or mosaic. Most buildings are decorated with permanent student art, some now decades old, celebrating all things San Dieguito as well as peace, beaches, and the exuberance of youth. For a campus with buildings constructed in the 1930s, 1950s, and 21st century, the unifying factor in it all is the whimsical spirit captured in tiles and paint, gardens and glass, and other expressions of teenage creativity.
On my first day on campus back in July, I got a taste of the magic that swirls around campus and takes shape in the art on the walls. Walking up by the sculpture room with the former principal who was giving me a tour (he was #16 to my #18) we happened upon a teacher, an alum, and a student working on a larger than life sculpture with the head of a horse and the body of a sea serpent. Troweling cement onto the armature, they worked in the shade of a pop-up, smiling as they dipped their heads together to talk about the drying time of the material they were using.
It was a grand experiment, the beginnings of something that may become a fixture here at SDA. In scope and ambition it dwarfs many of the other projects around campus, certainly exceeding what I’ve ever seen at other schools where I’ve worked. The plan is to have ceramics classes make tiles to cover the piece. It will take a forklift to move it to its eventual home in a newer part of campus.
Our sculpture teacher calls it the Seahorse; I call it the larger than life manifestation of our school culture.
San Dieguito High School Academy has a long tradition of art and architecture. Designed in the 1930s by architect Lilian Rice, the heart of campus exudes a vintage charm. Other parts of campus show the character of the decades in which they were added: the low slung science wing from the 1960s, the shaker siding on a gym constructed during the Ford Administration, and the prim modulars of the 21st Century. We’ll add some murals to those newest additions soon.
To walk through campus is to be treated to a vibrant history lesson. Images from across the decades smile back at current students, reminding them that they are part of something greater than any one of us, and part of someplace that values them for who they are and who they want to be.
One of my favorite pieces of public art is the four square tile image of a Mustang up by our Mosaic Cafe. Rough hewn, purposeful, and possessing a beauty that is hard to define, this piece speaks to me and seems to capture who we are here at San Dieguito.
We’re almost eighty years old this year, and while I don’t know exactly what our school will look like eighty years from now, I do believe that in 2095 students, alumni, and even retired principals who might live to be in their mid 120s, will live and learn in a campus defined by public art.
Who knows, maybe that Seahorse will be a cornerstone of our school as it prepares to enter the 22nd century.