Over the Rainbow

Title:  Over the Rainbow

Site:  Stockton Elementary School
4420 N. Beacon Street, Chicago

Artist:  Ginny Sykes and Corinne D. Peterson

Assistants: Harold Mendez, Jessica Bulege

Community Participants: Stockton Elementary School students and staff

Sponsors: Chicago Public Art Group, Illinois Arts Council, Stockton School, Beacon Street Gallery, and the Japanese Chamber of Commerce

Year:  2001

Scale:  210 square feet

Materials:  Ceramic tile and handmade ceramic tile mosaic on masonry

Information:  Three years in the making, Over the Rainbow is composed of eight doorway arches and four vertical panels on the east and south sides of Stockton Elementary School at 4420 N. Beacon in the Uptown neighborhood. Hundreds of students, teachers, visiting artists, and parents as well as other volunteers participated in making the murals, comprised of 210 square feet of broken tile mosaic with clay relief elements.     

The artists worked with a core group of fifth graders, and some third and fourth graders, to evoke the present, past, and future, respectively, through themes of Transformation, Masks and Journeys, and Nature’s Community. Students fashioned tile works based on their own drawings and cut-paper collages. Peterson helped team members create ceramic pieces. Sykes shaped the disparate elements into unifying designs recalling the arch-shaped modernist murals of Hale Woodruff.   

A key goal of the project was to build a bridge between the school and the community. In fact, says Ginny Sykes, the mosaics “jump-started progressive improvements” at Stockton, reflecting the school’s commitment to not only creating a new face, but also to fostering a new relationship with the surrounding neighborhood. Uptown, largely populated by recent immigrants from all parts of the globe, is feeling the pressures of gentrification; the artwork captures the school community’s cultural diversity, social histories, and neighborhood challenges.   

When the school’s grounds were re-landscaped in 2001, students worked with the idea that the urban and school community could be seen as part of a larger ecological system. Stockton adults made ceramic tiles, reinforcing the “ecology of community” theme. When a kiln overfired and destroyed 20 tiles, lunchroom staffers rallied to get them remade in time for the installation!   

Both Sykes and Peterson are longtime Uptown residents, and their work at Stockton was an extension of their neighborhood-arts activism and commitment. In 1996, the duo along with Mirtes Zwierzynski created From Many Paths We Come, the Sunnyside Mall mosaic sculpture plaza. Living in the area has allowed the artists to network for other local projects and funding sources.    

“I still have relationships with the kids and adults in the school,” says Sykes. “I can say that my investment in the project, the desire to help children and make a contribution to where I live and work, is close to the old ‘Think globally, act locally’ mantra.”