At the annual Hopi Spring Arts Fair event in April, students, staff and family members were treated to a surprise that was two years in the making. The PTA presented a new mosaic for the school that honored the ones that adorned the old walls.
The original campus was designed by architect Joe Wong and opened in 1960. It featured several mosaics crafted from pieces of brick painted and fired in a kiln to resemble kachina dolls.
“We believe Joe intended to celebrate and honor the Hopi heritage. He had a legacy of preserving and celebrating local and Arizona elements into his design,” said former PTA President Kyle Christensen, who helped with the project.
When the original Hopi was torn down for a complete rebuild and remodel in 2018, the school put together a Restoration Committee spearheaded by PTA members Emily Blais and Laurie Davis and SUSD board member Dennis Roehler. The committee worked to save artifacts, materials and parts of the old building to create a legacy gift to the school.
“We felt a big responsibility to rebuild not only the physical school but, more importantly, the community, after such a difficult design process for the rebuild,” Christensen said. “The kachina walls were cherished and authentically ours. We knew we wanted to make the campus feel like more than a set of brand new buildings. We wanted to do something that was truly Hopi and to make it our home once again.”
After deciding on a new design, the committee got to work getting approval from the district. The first step was to build the frame, which was supposed to happen during spring break of 2020.
“It was against policy to build our frame because people had to be closer than a six-foot distance to build it,” Christensen said. The frame was completed over Christmas break, and the committee hired local artist and Echo Canyon educator Kay King to complete the project. King worked nights and weekends until she finished in April.
King has been part of the SUSD community since 1995, and before then, she attended SUSD schools. She’s an experienced mosaic artist whose work is also displayed at Ingleside Middle School.
“Making sure the artist incorporated the physical pieces of the old buildings into the project was mandatory. Not only did she have the artistic expertise to create our mosaic, but she also had a deep understanding of the SUSD and Hopi communities,” Christensen said.
Native American artist Kevin Sekakuku also contributed. Christensen said he ensured that every detail of the art, from colors to symbolism, was in celebration of the Hopi culture.
The new piece depicts the Hopi Kachina Crow Mother who stands in the center watching over the children as they play, learn and grow.
“She protectively holds colorful seeds that represent the Hopi cardinal directions as well as people of all colors. There is a sky, and mountains in the background. In the sky are the Hopi symbols for clouds and sun,” King said.
On one side of the mural is a stalk of blue corn, which symbolizes growth and transition and is a main staple of the Hopi tribe. On the other is a sunflower, which represents growth and knowledge.
“I hope that those old brick tiles and having this artwork here to celebrate the identity of our school and community give all who pass by it a sense of legacy, pride and belonging,” Christensen said.
In addition to the mural, Hopi’s student council purchased a hawk statue to donate to the school, and the reading benches from the old grounds are now established fixtures on the new campus.