If you’ve driven down Washington Blvd in the past week, you may have noticed another La Ballona Creek. This one isn’t rushing with rainwater, but rather gushing with broken tiles, mortar and grout.
Earlier this school year, La Ballona Elementary set about to create, well, La Ballona – in mosaic tiles.
“We have such a vibrant community,” said La Ballona parent volunteer Ajae Clearway. “The blank brick wall in front of our school just wasn't representing us.”
So, the parents decided to use that brick wall as a canvas for something that beautified not only the school, but was an eye-catching piece of art that passersby could enjoy as well.
“We wanted to go with the theme of Ballona Creek, movement and water,” said Ajae. They enlisted the help of local mosaic artist and art therapist, Tabitha Fronk, who is a personal friend of some La Ballona parents. Tabitha is a resident artist at Westminster Elementary School in Venice. She made the project possible by initiating a collaboration with Westminster, which houses an art studio that can safely handle the dust and debris of mosaic-making. Then, Tabitha reached out to Gonzalo Duran of The Mosaic Tile House in Venice to create the initial design based on La Ballona’s flowing water concept.
Once the design was created, La Ballona needed the materials to turn its artistic vision into an artistic reality. Ajae posted a request for tile donations online. Within a week, the Culver City community rallied and provided enough tiles for the entire mural. Tile donations came from school projects, residential neighbors, and businesses.
“The great thing about making mosaics is that we can use donated tiles – ones that are left over from projects, or flawed in some way,” said Ajae. “If the pieces are already broken, that’s even better!”
La Ballona also received a PEP (Parks Enhancement Program) Grant from Culver City Parks & Rec to cover additional materials such as mortar and grout. The school drew on La Ballona PTA’s Ruth E. Ewing Fund for the Arts to cover its remaining costs.
Art therapist Tabitha and her Principal Barry Cohen allowed La Ballona families to come into Westminster Elementary’s studio and build the mosaic over three weekends. Everyone at La Ballona was invited to participate.
“More than a dozen families went over three weekends to break tile, arrange tile, glue, grout, and clean,” said Ajae. “The kids thoroughly enjoyed breaking the tile and using a toothbrush to clean the grout at the end. The adults got into the arranging of the tile, much like building a puzzle. We even had a Culver City High School student volunteer.”
“We are excited about this partnership with Westminster,” says La Ballona PTA President Marti Paez, “and are so grateful for their generosity, and for trusting our community with their space. We are also immensely grateful to Tabitha, whose advocacy for children is a true passion.”
The mosaic was installed in early February, on La Ballona’s exterior wall facing Washington Boulevard. Marti added. “This entire project from start to finish has been such a hit that we are planning to continue next year and add more mosaic beauty to the front of the school.”