By EMMALEE C. TORISK
As Russ Bailey tells it, a giant bucket of sidewalk chalk on sale for $2 started it all.
Last week, Bailey, a Campbell Memorial High School art teacher of 18 years, noticed three of his students — freshmen Suhad Albaat and Samantha Koullias, both 15, and sophomore Alexis Santiago, 16 — trying to think of something they “could do to inspire people, boost morale and make people feel good.”
Their thoughts then turned to the underused courtyard and amphitheater nestled within the high school’s campus. They thought of the mandalas — “circular designs representing balance in the universe,” Bailey said — they’d recently learned about in their art classes.
And, of course, they thought of the giant bucket of sidewalk chalk.
In the span of just three hours Thursday, Albaat, Koullias and Santiago, helped by a few others, filled the courtyard with a mandala of their own. They gave up their study halls and lunches to do so.
“We see a lot of kids who are stressed and depressed around school,” explained Koullias, citing a difficult home life, final exams or relationship problems as the source. “We wanted to do something to make them feel a little bit better.”
Albaat, Koullias and Santiago said they’d never done any sort of large-scale art project like the mandala before, but they didn’t plan it out beforehand. They simply just started to draw.
Radiating from the central grate of the courtyard are vibrantly colored petals and squiggles, which are joined by several rounds of inspirational words and phrases that grow in size as the mandala moves outward.
A few words in the first round, for example, are “trust,” “strength” and “hope,” followed by phrases such as “be somebody,” “seize the day” and “make a change” in the second.
The third round includes actions such as “think,” “create” and “sing,” while the fourth and final implores passers-by to “end violence,” saying “you are the world” and “the world is you.”
The design then is topped off by stars and circles and curlicues that stretch to the edges of the concrete pavement.
“We were having fun, but there’s a message behind it,” Santiago said. “We want people to come closer, all together as a school.”
She added that no matter what kind of art it is, even chalk art, there is always a deeper message — something Koullias agreed with.
“It gets you thinking,” Koullias said, referring to the mandala. “We want it to make a difference.”
All three students said they’re hopeful this art project won’t be their last on the CMHS campus.
“We enjoy doing it,” Albaat said.