Samaritan House dedicates mosaics created by CSM

SAN MATEO — College of San Mateo art students have put their budding talents to charitable use.

The artists installed a colorful mosaic on the exterior of Samaritan House’s new headquarters on Pacific Boulevard. On Tuesday afternoon, the nonprofit thanked the gold-hearted artists with a gold-colored plaque placed just below the mural.

“We’re real happy to have it there,” Samaritan House spokeswoman Nancy Carothers said at the official unveiling of the mosaic. “It’s supposed to represent Samaritan House (and) the compassion and the spirit of the community.”

Students in Jude Pittman’s mosaic mural class installed the roughly 100-square-foot piece in January but came back for touch-ups as recently as last week. Before they even began work on the project, the students were invited to observe the happenings at the nonprofit, which provides food, clothing, medical assistance and shelter for those in need.”We noticed a lot of children and families, so we wanted to do something fun,” student Mary Ellen Presta said.

In her design, Presta featured faceless female friends in a lively outdoor scene of “food, friendship and sunshine.” Presta used old hand tracings from her 5-year-old granddaughter and portrayed them in different skin tones to reflect the ethnic diversity of Samaritan House clients.

Student Gail Mintz also wanted to showcase the youth of many Samaritan House clients, and she gathered some influence from a recent trip to Africa. Mintz’s mosaic features such African animals as an elephant and water buffalo; she created a leopard by breaking up a plate she’d found with the animal’s signature spotted design.Diana White, another of the six students who contributed to the mural, created a section of hearts with measuring spoons partially embedded in the work. Inside the spoons she placed scrambled words made up of little lettered beads.

If one stares at the beads long enough, White said, words like “kindness,” “dignity” and “compassion” may start to unscramble before the viewer’s eyes.

“So if they need to wait for a ride or the bus, they could see the words in the spoons — it’s a word game,” White said.

Pittman has taught mosaics at CSM for three years. Two of Pittman’s student-made murals are featured inside the school’s admissions building, and Pittman said she’s hoping to get another one in the new science building.

The Samaritan House mural — titled “Reflect, Rejoice, Renew” — is the first CSM student mural displayed at a public place off-campus. In addition to White, Mintz and Presta, students Adam Klafter, Yvonne Long and Gail Vannucchi-Strack contributed to the piece.

“It’s exciting,” Pittman said. “To bring students’ work into the community — that was the goal.”

Pittman’s class used to meet every semester, but after cutbacks, it’s now offered only in the fall. Still, Pittman said she appreciates the support the art department has received from the community college’s administration.

Pittman’s is the only mosaic mural class offered at a community college in the Bay Area, she said.

The staff of Samaritan House is appreciative, too.

“It’s actually a conversation piece and very comforting” to the clients,” said Cindy Ibin, director of development. “Every time you look at it, you see something different.”