Beach Elementary teachers’ lounge gets mural and makeover, thanks to fifth graders

Gigi Estavillo, Sloane Estavillo, and Jose Zamorano

A dreary, dank backyard corner at Beach Elementary has, thanks to the departing fifth grade class, been transformed into an outdoor teachers’ lounge complete with new furniture and a gorgeous collaborative mural.

The legacy gift was the brainchild of Beach parent (and alumnus) Liz Tuuri-Mosbaugh, who in November 2022 spotted teachers eating lunch on child-sized furniture in the outdoor area behind the school’s auditorium. The school lunch program had taken over the indoor lounge space, leaving the teachers no communal place to have lunch.

“After fundraising from the fifth grade families, we were able to purchase adult-sized dining tables and chairs, a pop-up canopy, and outdoor rugs to soften the space,” Tuuri-Mosbaugh said. “We also added native plants (no watering needed!) for the hillside behind the lounge, plus a comfy seating area the the Beach staff can appreciate and enjoy for many years to come.”

Fellow Beach parent Etienne Fang saw the makeover project underway a couple of months later and immediately recognized the opportunity to create a beautiful mural to brighten up the area. Fang is also a Beach alumnus and remembered the isolated corner of the school as a forgotten back alley.

“I remember it being a dark and scary space back there when I was a student at Beach,” Fang said. “The thought of turning this neglected area into an inclusive, creative, hands-on project with kids and parents inspired the mural project.”

Fang called on her father-in-law, David Vickers, an artist and a retired art educator, to partner on the project.

Vickers conceived a collaborative mural in bright but relaxing hues and developed a design to fit a prominent staircase wall in the lounge area.

“My main goals as an artist with this project were first of all to make it an engaging collaboration and secondly to make the process accessible to ‘non-artists.’ The design is meant to be uplifting and playful, providing the teachers with a relaxed background for those precious breaks in their busy days,” he said.

Materials for the mural project were generously donated by Ace Hardware on Grand Avenue, and supported by Gary, Art, Craig (paint department), and Eddie (nursery department).

After refining the prototype design, Vickers laid out the mural onsite and led Beach fifth graders, parents, and siblings in painting the entire mural wall over two weekends in April. More than 75 community members participated. Among the parents in the group were PUSD alumni — four from Beach, one from Wildwood, and one from Havens, making the collaboration a truly multigenerational legacy project.

Vickers and Fang spoke in the fifth-grade classes of Ms. Sprague and Ms. Medress about the creative process and the value in a legacy project that leaves Beach a better place. Students also learned about measurement, scale, coordinates, color theory, collaboration, and iterative design.

Come to the party!

WHAT: Everyone is invited to attend a party to “unveil” the outdoor teacher’s lounge to the wider community. Refreshments are sponsored by La Farine Bakery on Piedmont Avenue and 5 Spiced Kitchen in Montclair.

WHEN: Wednesday, May 3, 5:30-6:30 p.m.

WHERE: Beach Elementary School, 100 Lake Ave, Piedmont. Outdoor lounge is behind the school (turn left below the brick stairs leading into the school entrance).

Info and RSVP here:

Finished mural and sitting area

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