ARC instructor creates mosaics and murals with help of students


A student stands next to a ceramic mosaic wall in the biological sciences hallway at American River College in Sacramento, California on Sept. 12, 2017. (Photo by Nathan Bauer)

Nathan Bauer

Spread across the American River College campus are ceramic murals and mosaics created by Ceramics Professor Linda Gelfman and her students.

Gelfman became an ARC faculty member in 2001 and since that time she and her students have created 11 works of art for the campus.

The pieces include “Planet Ceramica and the River of Knowledge,” which is located near the Learning Resource Center; “The Dragon Kiln,” which is next to the kiln room; “Rain Dance,” which is located in the breezeway on the Biological Sciences building.

There are also unnamed works, in the lobby of Disabled Students Programs and Resources, the doorway to Counseling Services, the Printing Services office, the Business Office, the bookstore, the Horticulture Department and the Natomas campus.

According to Gelfman, each piece of art is a very collaborative process between herself and her students; she begins with a general overview and the theme, but leaves the details to her students to imagine and create.

“I think to start, I kind of have a little bit of an idea of what we’re working on.  Kind of, maybe, I want to steer the conversation, then we brainstorm,” Gelfman said.

Each class has between 24 and 30 students and Gelfman splits the class into five groups, which are each responsible for designing and creating their own section.

For the DSPS mural, which Gelfman described as her favorite, she knew she wanted to use arched panels to represent the theme of the piece which revolved around the meaning of education to each individual artist.

Students then designed and drew out the imagery based on the overall theme and their brainstorming sessions, with some assistance from Gelfman, to create the completed work.

Students then used a bas-relief method to sculpt each panel in clay, then fired and glazed the panels and attached them to a backing so it could be hung in the lobby.

The panels are hung consecutively and surrounded by a border of ceramic tiles that were each created by the students.

The DSPS mural is of particular significance to the DSPS staff because it was commissioned by art lover and DSPS Counselor Louise Kronick and about seven DSPS students worked on the piece, according to Student Personnel Assistant Toni Peters.

“It’s a beautiful piece of artwork. It’s amazing to have it in the lobby,” Peters said.

Gelfman’s most recent project, “Rain Dance,” was made at the behest of Biology Professor Rick Topinka during the recent California drought and represents:  “conservation and evolution, and the cycle of life, the circle of water,” Gelfman said.

Aside from the raindrop-shaped panels that adorn the Biological Sciences building there are also a number of individual ceramic animals throughout the breezeway of the sciences building that create a ceramic menagerie.

The mural has beens well-received by students

Biology major Julio Cortez said, “I like the mural.  I think it makes the campus look nice.”

Nursing major Kattie Metzelaair also expressed enjoyment of the mural and said she liked the collaborative nature of the piece.

“It works really well together, it looks like it was a group project,” Metzelaair said.

Gelfman said her favorite part of the project was putting up the finished works over spring break and seeing students reactions when they returned to class.

“So students came back, walking down the hallway, and they see things they hadn’t seen before. I had one student look at it and he goes, ‘was this just put up here? Was this here before?’  So that was fun, being able to do that for the students to be surprised,” Gelfman said.

ARC students can look forward to more ceramic art in the future Gelfman offers another projects class in Fall of 2018.