Tim Botengan, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at Mt Sierra College, was seated at his desk one August day last year when the school receptionist put through a call to him. The caller was Gail Jebbia, librarian at the Monrovia Public Library. She wanted to know if Mt Sierra College would be willing to partner with them on creating a mural design that could be hung so the entire community can come together to color it.
Gail had read about this concept originated by a young artist named Ernest English, who became famous in Boston as one of the Top 25 innovators under 25 by Boston.com for his influence on the community through his art. English himself was a transplant from New Orleans; he moved to Boston in February 2013 to join the MIT Community Innovators Lab.
The concept was certainly a worthwhile idea, but an important component was finding the artist to create the mural. Then Gail had a “eureka” moment! She said, “There’s Mt Sierra College down the street and they have students studying to get Art degrees!” And she got right on the phone.
Tim didn’t need much convincing and their collaboration began rather quickly. Starting in August 2014, Gail and Tim met once a month with the project team of Annette Simpson, Edward William, Ceora Brown, Mike Pace and Vicky Panossian, to discuss the logistics of this undertaking. There were several things that needed to be decided upon before they could involve the students: the mural had to be on vinyl material to withstand the outdoors; it had to be mobile as it needs to move from inside the library to the park; it had to fit the door and make the turn as it is moved; etc.
Theirs was a markedly friendly partnership. The library group and the Mt Sierra team left their egos at the door as they made all the preparations for this project. They agreed that this mural was to be 15’ wide by 6’ high and that it needed to stand on a movable structure. They decided on how to break down the mural into blocks to make it easy for people to color it in. They determined that Graffiti markers would be best to use for coloring in the artwork.
Mt Sierra then opened the competition to all their Art students. They were tasked to create a mural to represent the Library’s Summer Reading Program theme “Read to the Rhythm.” A panel of judges made up of the Monrovia Public Library team: Barbara Radford, Library Board Chair; Mary Ann Lutz, former Monrovia mayor and President of the Library Foundation Board; Linda Granicy, Senior Librarian; Annette Simpson, Librarian II; and Gail Jebbia, Librarian, had the job of choosing from nine entries. Laura Da Costa and Scott Lane were then declared the clear winners, having the artwork that best depicted this year’s theme. The other contestants were Melodie Wang, Samantha Quintero, Jackie Gutierrez, Jonathan Delagado, Ilene Bowers, Adam Steinberg, and Sarah Rodriguez.
An awards ceremony was held on May 11 at Mt Sierra College amid a gathering of Mt Sierra staff, Monrovia Public Library representatives, families of the contestants and various guests. Design Competition winners Laura and Scott received plaques and were awarded a full quarter’s tuition by the President of the College, Dr. Bill Kakish. All the contestants were honored for their contribution and received plaques of recognition.
For a first time joint effort of this scale, the Design Competition has been a rousing success. It showed that collaboration and partnership could lead to an unimaginably satisfying experience. Gail had dreamed of creating something beautiful while at the same time engaging the Monrovia community in creating their own piece of art that was representative of their spirit and identity.
On June 20, back-to-back murals will hang at the Monrovia Public Library to usher in this year’s Summer Reading Program and everyone will be invited to color in the artwork. The completely colored-in mural will represent a community that came together as one to celebrate not just the value of reading but also that of solidarity.