SOLANA BEACH — When students begin classes this week at Earl Warren Middle School, they will do so on a completely rebuilt campus.
In the center of the state-of-the-art facility is a sculpture the former principal describes as “a reflection of a commitment to the school and its students, education and the community.”
“It’s also a reflection of the kindness of the community,” Adam Camacho said at an Aug. 17 dedication ceremony. “I’m so proud of what we have accomplished here.”
The nearly 14-foot-high kinetic piece is topped by a wing-like structure that circles around a centerpiece featuring the school’s sea hawk logo on a blue background encased on both sides by a glass panel.
It includes LED lighting in the middle “so at night it glows beautifully,” artist Amos Robinson said. It also contains a few hidden secrets inside that Camacho said all began “as a conversation in a small, dingy construction trailer.”
After more than 60 years, Earl Warren, which first welcomed students in 1954, was beyond its useful life, lacking modern amenities such air conditioning.
With money from a 2012 voter-approved bond initiative, officials concluded it was cheaper to level the district’s oldest facility and build a new one from the ground up.
“My hope was that we would find something that would reflect on the old, except for bones, which would have stalled the project,” he said.
After the groundbreaking in October 2015, dirt was moved and removed but nothing historic was uncovered.
To ensure that didn’t happen decades from now, when the new school might be outdated and need replacing, he decided a time capsule was in order.
Camacho shared his idea with Heather Dugdale, president of the Parent Teacher Student Association.
“She rallied her team and they ran with the project,” he said. “This was Heather’s vision.”
Dugdale said the campus enhancement committee, headed by Ashley Hellickson, began researching local artists.
He agreed and invited her to his studio for ideas. He also visited the campus was while it was under construction. An initial concept featured a wave but that was already used by Oak Crest, one of the district’s other middle schools.
The decision was made to use Earl Warren’s sea hawk mascot but the design remained elusive until committee members began perusing Robinson’s website and came across a sculpture with red globe atop the pedestal in Florida.
“We asked if we could have that one but could he change it,” Dugdale said.
The piece was for sale as part of a public art display. Robinson renegotiated the contract and in a week the sculpture was on a truck on its way to San Diego, she added.
Robinson invited Camacho, Dugdale, an art teacher, a few students and some other PTSA members to his South County studio when it arrived.
Everyone in the group etched their name on the inside of the logo. With a Sharpie, they also wrote their names on the inside of the hollow pedestal, which was resting on sawhorses.
“Then I showed them the finish options and asked them to pick the one they liked,” Robinson said. “They chose a satin finish. Then I gave them an angle grinder and safety glasses and gloves and asked who wanted to be the first one to start the finish.
“One student stepped up and then everybody did a stroke on that,” he added. “They really got involved. One of the students turned to me as she was leaving and said she always wanted to be a painter, but now she wanted to be a sculptor. That was just like wow.”
Robinson said the whole experience was so amazing that he is in talks with the school to possibly teach a sculpture class there for the next few years.
The entire process, from concept to installation, took about four months, “which is unheard of in a public art piece,” Robinson said.
“It was a team effort,” he added. “Everyone involved did everything they could to meet the deadlines.”
“What made it so perfect and magical was the visionary principal and the PTSA that moved very quickly and an artist that was an absolute dream to work with,” Dugdale said. “Adam Camacho was just instrumental in getting the district onboard and Amos made it happen.”
“And none of this would have happened without our donors,” Camacho added.
In addition to the sculpture, Robinson created a 4-foot-high “54” that will hang on a centrally located tower facing into the campus and a 3-foot-tall sea hawk logo that will be installed over the multipurpose building entrance.
The total project cost was approximately $45,000. About $20,000 came from previous donations to a campus beautification fund.
“But we didn’t have a campus to beautify so we didn’t use any of that money,” Dugdale said. “We asked the major donors if we could repurpose it for this. … The other $25,000 was raised in a month from families.”
The inside of the pedestal serves as a time capsule, which was filled and sealed the day of the dedication. Items include Earl Warren’s 2017 yearbook, alumni stories, school T-shirts, notes from students, photos, an Uno card game and “pictures of things that were important to us,” Dugdale said.
The plan is to open it in 2067.
“This is really special to all of us,” new principal Reno Medina said. “It’s a big symbol of our partnership with the community. When we look at it every day it will remind us how important that is.”