By Samantha Larrick
The construction zone of Pinole Valley High School, with its lack of space and parking, keeps most people away from the school, but stepping onto the campus of portables, it is amazing the amount of color found around campus. From Picasso, to Basquiat, to Modigliani, and even some original works, the campus displays replicas of pieces from a variety of artists and themes that has turned a bland, brown campus of portables into a walking gallery of art. Though the students have been taking class on what was the baseball field since 2014, art teacher Jan Barzottini and principal Kibby Kleiman created the Modern Masterpieces project to make the best out of what could be a dreary situation.
When Jan Barzottini created this project, her goal was to educate the students on famous artists and bring life to a dull campus. Inspired by the blank canvas, she picked a variety of fine art influences that she thought would add character to the bland portables and let the students choose what pieces they wanted to replicate. What started out as an art project aimed at spicing up the campus has turned into a community of students contributing to the decoration of their school. Athletes, scholars, and artists can all be seen in the art classroom working together to make these masterpieces come to life. “I’m working on Picasso,” and “mine is going on the building by the track” can be heard throughout the classroom. This project has encouraged students to be a part of the community and take ownership of their school.
Barzottini has met a lot of students that are not in her art classes that have decided to get involved in the project. Principal Kleiman suggests that art has been a reprieve from the mundane schedule of a school day. Students are in Barzottini’s classroom at lunch and after school working on their art pieces, perfecting each stroke before they go up on a building for the entire school to see. They take pride in the work they’ve done, and some decide to do multiple pieces, despite the hard work it takes. Principal Kleiman says that “the artwork is generally left alone.” While Pinole Valley has its share of graffiti, the artwork remains untouched. Students are protective of the art. They take pride in the work they and others have done and leave it alone. These works of art bring the school together and make students feel like it is their school, rather than just a temporary campus.
Through this project, many amazing artists have come out of the woodworks. Two seniors at Pinole Valley, Lindsey and Stephen, are working on their first Modern Masterpieces and agree that it is hard work. Lindsey stated that she has a new appreciation when she sees the other art pieces because she knows now how much time and dedication it took.
Some of the students on campus remember the old Pinole Valley High School, the Freshman might get to see the new Pinole Valley High School, but for a lot of current students, this campus is all that they are going to know. Principal Kleiman expressed that he wants those students to remember their time in high school just as fondly as others, which is why his focus is not on promoting the new campus, but brightening up the current one.
Modern Masterpieces has created such a sense of community at Pinole Valley, it is hard to imagine the school without the project. Jan Barzottini stated that though the project will not continue in this same way, she always has new ideas to foster community at Pinole Valley High School.