San Mateo County Community College District’s Skyline College Student Services Center (Building 2) in San Bruno, CA, has been the fortunate host of a beautiful mural on its main exterior entrance wall. The mural titled “Earthbook” was created by renowned Latina artist, educator, and activist, Juana Alicia, a Skyline alum. Juana Alicia’s work involves social justice, gender equality, environmental crisis, and the power of resistance and revolution. She is the recipient of many awards and commissions around the world. Building 2’s mural was installed in 1987 and restored/rededicated in 2012 on its 25th anniversary.
Earthbook visualizes her mural’s relationship between the environment and the learning process. The mural contains aspects of marine biology, including threatened frogs in the Bay area. A piano represents the music department, which converges into a book in the shape of the nearby San Bruno Mountains. The hands at the bottom of the mural hold up a string of rainbows representing the ethnic diversity of the Skyline College students.
Swinerton Management & Consulting (SMC) will manage the upcoming comprehensive gutting/modernization of Building 2. In familiarizing themselves with the fully designed, DSA-approved project, the team noticed that the extensive and complex seismic upgrades involved thickening many existing concrete walls with shotcrete, including the mural wall! This oversight may have resulted from virtual design with little on-site exposure during the pandemic.
The cost to redesign around the mural wall and further extend the DSA/State Chancellor’s office approval process was substantial. Hence, SMC contacted the artist to alert her of the dilemma and seek her recommendations for replication. Juana Alicia referenced the California Art Preservation Act (CAPA) of 1979 (CA Civil Code Section 987), which prohibits “Fine Art” from being purposely altered or destroyed to retain the artist’s reputation and preserve the integrity of cultural and artistic creations in the interest of the public. She was very appreciative of being informed and consulted regarding her work. The plan is to utilize high-resolution photographs for use by a company based in London, England, to make large tiles of the mural that can be attached to the new wall at the exact location of Building 2. This process isn’t cheap, but it avoids conflict or litigation with the artist and preserves the mural for future decades of enjoyment by the students, faculty, staff, and visitors of Skyline College.