Laguna Beach’s Class of 2020 gifts mural to high school

Artist Jesse Bartels with a new tile mural at Laguna Beach High School donated by the Class of 2020. Courtesy of Kimberly Leeds

The Class of 2020 has left a colorful mark on Laguna Beach High School’s campus to cap one of the most unconventional school years in history.

In light of the pandemic’s closure of normal school activities, the 2020 Senior Graduation Committee commissioned Laguna Beach artist Jesse Bartels to create a tiled mural depicting a hilltop view of the High School. Bartels said in a phone interview that he finished installation Tuesday of the piece entitled “2020 Vision, Seeing Light in the Darkness” on the exterior of the Theater Box Office. The quote was authored by Laguna Beach High Senior Luka Salib, according to a press release.

“I was honored to have some sanctioned wall markings allowed 20 years after I graduated from high school,” Bartels said in a phone interview. “The point was to give them something to be proud of as their class gift.”

As the parent of a daughter who is two years away from attending Laguna Beach High, Bartels said his heart goes out to the students and their parents who made it all the way through high school but only got to experience half of a traditional school year.

Bartels’ rendition of the high school with Hotel Laguna and Main Beach in the background was inspired by a vista in Temple Hills. The piece is surrounded with the names of all of the graduating seniors in its border. It took about a month for Bartels to craft the individual tiles that make up the mural.

“What an amazing gift to the school this is,” Committee Member Kimberly Leeds said in a statement. “Especially with its uplifting message to represent these difficult times.”

The Class of 2020 left school in March and missed out on a large part of the traditional graduate activities, Leeds said.

“The mural is a lasting impression of these times with a positive outlook of resilience in the face of hardship,” she said.

In light of the closure of the summer art festivals. the Graduation Committee felt it was important to commission the piece by a local artist. Bartels was a perfect fit, creating a beautiful piece of artwork that will be enjoyed on campus for many years to come.

This isn’t the first tile mural Bartels has installed at Laguna Beach High School. Years ago, he helped his father Marlo Bartels install the “Laguna Beach High School Artists” mural of a palette and paintbrush in the campus quad. The Bartels were also commissioned by Laguna Beach city staffers to craft the tile-encrusted bollards installed at the Promenade on Forest earlier this year.

Laguna Beach Principal Jason Allemann said in a phone interview Thursday that he was pleased with the final product, adding he felt it rings true to seniors’ experience because it includes many of the names of the Class of 2020.

“It’s creating a memory piece for a pretty memorable year for the class of 2020,” he said. “It’s cool to see a piece of art that brings the class together in a way.”

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