This article was originally published in the Imperial Valley Press on November 18, 2019
Southwest High School SAVAPA art students paint a name for Jimmie Cannon Theater
Written by Gizelle Silva, Southwest High School student
In room K-57 at Southwest High School, Southwest High School Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts students are sketching, constructing, gluing, and designing a new sign for the Jimmie Cannon Theater for the Performing Arts at Southwest.
The students are partnering with the Rainforest Art Project to create a mosaic to identify the theater and celebrate how much it means to the community.
SWHS students working on the mosaic letters.
According to the official site, the Rainforest Art Project is a “team of professional artists and educators who have come together with the strong belief that every child deserves a quality art education.”
Maria Titova, the operations and creative director at Rainforest Art Project, said that part of the project’s mission is to create public art for the entire community to enjoy. “[The project’s mission is] to bring more interest to theater and student performances, while providing an outstanding opportunity for the young generation to leave a legacy and experience a powerful sense of pride and accomplishment,” she said.
Titova also said it was important to give the art students of Southwest High School this opportunity to be part of giving the facility recognition. “Jimmie Cannon Theater plays an important role in the life of the entire community and yet there’s no identification,” she said.
She said the Rainforest Art Project believes it is important to have a display of public art for the community.“When collaborating to create public artwork for the school campus and neighborhood, students learn that their ideas are valued and that they play an important role in the community,” Titova said.
Titova also explained the process that went into creating the mosaic. “Luke Meyer, our graphic designer, generated the first version of the design. After the Southwest High School team approved the vision for the project, Ms. Pleitez and her art students created marvelous designs for the big letters,” she said.
The completed letters were showcased to the school and community at an unveiling party on December 21, 2019
Jacqueline Pleitez is the SAVAPA art teacher involved in leading the project on behalf of Southwest High School. Pleitez is someone also very connected to the message the Rainforest Art Project is passing on to her students. “I hope students learn to value the artwork they do, [because] many times they criticize themselves so much they don’t value the work they do, but when other people see it they can appreciate their work,” Pleitez said.
Not only does Pleitez hope students gain an appreciation for the artwork they create, but she said she also hopes students use this as an opportunity to gain experience with working in groups and in the field of public art.
“[I hope they] learn to work with a group of people and with classmates,” she said. “I want them to also remember to leave a legacy of what they’ve done to the school and to remember that they were in art and did a mosaic, and it’s going to stay there.”
"I hope students learn to value the artwork they do."
Pleitez added the project is also important for the message it will convey to the community.
“It was very important to let my students participate in this project and very important for my students to learn how mosaic is done as part of an art-making process,” she said. “The theater is not only for our school but for our community. [It is important] to remember who Jimmie Cannon is and remember Jimmie Cannon as someone who was important to our community.”
Jimmie Cannon left a legacy with the Great Spartan Band and the Jimmie Cannon’s Valley Jazz. He was instrumental in getting the theater at Southwest High School built so the entire Imperial Valley had a place to enjoy public performances of all kinds.
Southwest High School principal Matt Phillips explained how the collaboration of Southwest High School and the Rainforest Art Project came to be.
“Jimmie Cannon Theater is a beautiful facility, but there’s no sign that says ‘Jimmie Cannon Theater,’ so the process began with Rainforest and came out from a conversation with my friend Dan Evers,” Phillips said.
Ivy Desiderio, 16, is a SAVAPA art student who has been involved in the making of the Jimmie Cannon Theater mosaic since her sophomore year.
“[It’s important] because it’s going to be up there. Each SAVAPA student designed a letter and I designer the letter T and it’s going to stay up there, and I know I did it,” Desiderio said.
Ivy Desiderio's original design (left) and the finished mosaic (right).
She said creating the mosaic is a multi-year process. “We send the design to the company; they give us the glass, and we piece them together,” Desiderio said. “Last year was designing the letters, and this year is connecting them.” She added she hopes the community is able to see and appreciate detailed artwork in each letter when the final results are revealed.
Jimmie Cannon Theater for the Performing Arts at Southwest mosaic is expected to be finished in December.
The mosaic letters were completed by students in Fall 2019, and were unveiled to the school and community on December 21, 2019. The mosaic is expected to be permanently installed in early 2020.
Digital renderings showing the completed installation.