B.F. Day Tile Mural: Volunteer Opportunity?

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Portion of Tile Wall at B.F. Day

First Installment of B.F. Day Tile Wall, dedicated April 1995 - photo by Larry Wales

The corner of North 39th Street and Fremont Avenue can be landmarked by a tile mural that stands beside it, declaring the name of the school hidden by greenery behind it – B.F. Day Elementary.  The mural not only marks the location of the school, but also the artistic talents, interests and passions of a generation of students.

That opportunity, for graduating students to literally put their mark on the wall, may end.  According to Julie Trout, B.F. Day visual arts teacher, “I am not sure if I will continue it this year due to a reduced schedule.”  The wall began with a volunteer effort, and when asked if a volunteer effort could help, Trout enthusiastically stated, “that would be great!  I’m not sure I can do it alone again.”

From Plain Concrete

The official program from the tile mural opening ceremony, dated April 18, 1995, listed Veronica (MacKinnon) Truffat and Dave McKay as the representatives of the Fremont Arts Council, and principal artists.  Truffat also gave credit to Steve Roach, who created many of the tiles in the classroom and in his Fremont shop, Aruba Tile.

“It was community art at its finest,” Truffat explained, “everybody was so enthusiastic!”  One long, rainy day, Denise (Fogleman) Henrikson helped McKay, who passed away soon thereafter, work under a blue tarp to install the white tiles that “so the name would pop.”  Truffat and McKay created the original design, and the vine tile frame – imprinted with the names of people and businesses that paid to support the project.  For inspiration, Truffat explained, “a plain, unattractive and really prominent concrete wall had to have the name of the school – and had to involve the school and the Fremont artists.”

To Instructional Tool

Robin Kinney Robbins has been at B.F. Day for 25 years.  She recalled the whole school getting into that first installation – the kids made tiles or pieces to be incorporated.  For four years Robbins worked at the school as the art teacher, and she got to carry on the project, with each year another panel installed and “each year a tile goes up for each 5th Grader that graduates,” Robbins explained.

Under her leadership, “the tiles were symbolic of what the child wanted to be or do,” Robbins described.  Students made their tile by hand, rolling it out for a bisque firing by Robbins.  The student would draw their design on paper, then pencil it on a fired tile before painting the design and covering the work in a glaze.  Robbins would then do a glaze firing, in the school’s kiln.

“We would spend a couple of months on it,” she admitted, and try to involve parents and members of the Fremont Chamber, “it’s quite a challenge to decorate a vertical wall.”  Yet, Robbins proudly stated, “most students that graduated from B.F. Day have a tile on that wall.”

When she inherited the project last year, Trout took a different tack.  She taught the students about mosaic work, world art, and mandalas – then each child made their own.  “I really want kids to find the joy in creating,” Trout explained, and this project “is part of the bigger picture of opportunities for the kids to create.”

Comes a Historic Landmark

Truffat identified the long-term joy behind the wall.  “I love to show friends,” she admitted, “I’ll make them guess which one is mine,” and they usually can.  “That’s the nice thing about tile, it holds up real well,” Truffat said.  It will hold up, if installed.

This year Trout had her hours cut back and won’t have time to create a panel with the graduating class, “we would need volunteers to come in and work with the kids, or help to install it, or donations of mosaic material.”  If you can help, contact Trout by e-mail or leave a message for her at 206/252-6010.  “This is one of our great public schools,” Robbins enthused.  Wouldn’t it be great to show it some great community support?

©2010 Kirby Lindsay.  This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws.  Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.    www.fremocentrist.com

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