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Photo: Los Angeles Coliseum
Until a teenager decided to solve the mystery, the story of the coliseum mural was lost in the mists of time.

I’m pretty sure young people are going to save the planet, and after hearing speakers from one youth organization yesterday, This Is Zero Hour, I know I need to follow where they lead. Never underestimate the power of a teen who gets motivated to solve a problem.

On a lesser scale than saving the planet — but illustrating the point nevertheless — a Los Angeles teenage sleuth managed to solve the mystery of a beautiful, neglected mural and ended up providing critical information to the restoration team. Colleen Shalby has the story at the Los Angles Times.

“For decades, the curving mural depicting a golden sun has greeted visitors to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Faded by the elements, its once-vibrant blue lost some luster over the years. The gold-leaf paint had chipped away. Still, the image drew eyes upward.

“No one seemed to know who had painted the scene adorning the Coliseum’s main archway — or when. Guides referred to it as a ‘mystery mural,’ the story of its origins as shrouded by time as the artwork itself.

“But after taking a tour of the historic stadium a few years ago, one local teenager became engrossed with its history.

“Dean Gordon estimates he’s been to the Coliseum more than 100 times. But before that day, he’d never given much thought to the mural high above the peristyle entrance. Two golden Olympic torches flanking a flaming sun, its center a depiction of the planet Earth and the 12 signs of the Zodiac. Solving its mystery soon became his mission.

“Two summers ago, at age 17, Gordon began his quest — poring through library books and searching archives, hoping to find a clue that would lead him to the artist.

“ ‘I basically contacted every single person who might have an idea,’ he said, ‘every archivist, historian or professor who might have some connection to the mural,’ rumored to have been painted before the Coliseum hosted the 1932 Olympics.

“After a series of dead ends, Gordon found a clue in the form of a Los Angeles Central Library notecard that read ‘H. Rosien Coliseum.’ Further online digging produced nothing — until he came across a single tweet: ‘Please don’t touch the mural inside the arch that my FIL Heinz Rosien painted prior to the Olympics!!’

“The plea, posted in 2016, was from Mary Lou Rosien in response to the Coliseum’s announcement that parts of the stadium were being overhauled. The mural would be part of renovations, which eventually totaled $315 million, by USC. The university operates and manages the Coliseum. …

“Rosien’s husband, Igor, [and] his father, Heinz Rosien, had worked on the mural together. The Los Angeles Coliseum Commission tasked the elder Rosien with the job in 1969, in hopes of helping the city win a bid for the 1976 Olympics. …

“The archway of the Coliseum proved to be a precarious canvas. The underside of the curved portico stood more than 70 feet off the ground. To reach it, father and son scaled scaffolding without the aid of safety belts, which now are commonplace. They painted upside down. …

“The origins of the mural were all but lost — until Gordon started his detective work. The teen tracked Rosien shortly after spotting his wife’s tweet, shocked to learn that someone directly connected with the artwork was still alive.

‘The entire time I was trying to figure out who painted it, I thought it was from 1932,’ said Gordon, now 19 and a student at Amherst College in Massachusetts. ‘All my research was in that time period.’ …

“The end of Gordon’s search two years ago led to a series of hours-long discussions about the mural — and the start of a friendship between the younger Rosien and the student detective.

“ ‘Thankfully, Dean didn’t take “mystery mural” as an answer,’ Igor Rosien said. …

“Before the mural’s restoration got underway, Gordon and Rosien met outside the Coliseum. There, the artist presented the young detective with one of his dad’s paintings.”

More.

 

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Art: Finneas Avery Roels, high school student
The theme for the Arlington, Mass., banner competition this spring was Trees.

One day back in June, when I happened to be in Arlington, Mass., I was struck by some delightful banners hanging from lamp posts. I decided to see what I could discover about them. Turns out, the designs were created by kids.

From the website Your Arlington, I learned that the “youth banner initiative aims to promote and encourage development in the visual arts and to provide an opportunity for youth to participate in temporary public art projects in Arlington. The effort is geared to young people in grades 6 through 12 (and the equivalent home-school level).

“Funding is provided by the Gracie James Foundation in memory of James, who was a beloved, artistically talented Arlington High School student. The program invites teens to submit designs relating to a specific theme to be digitally reproduced on vinyl banners which are then hung on light poles along Mass. Ave. in Arlington Center.”

This year’s theme was Trees, and three designs were chosen to hang in town. The one above is by Finneas Avery Roels of Arlington High School.

But, oh, dear, I thought. What happened to Gracie, whose foundation provided the support? Alas, those answers were in an obit.

“Gracie Christine James, beloved daughter of Chris Bobel, James Lundy and Thomas Hartl, all of Arlington, Massachusetts, died on October 20, 2010, of injuries sustained in a car accident in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah three days earlier. She had just turned 17 years old.

“Gracie Christine James was born on September 29, 1993, in Whitewater, Wisconsin where she lived until moving to New Orleans just before her fourth birthday. After her father and mother separated in 1998, Chris and Gracie moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where they lived until relocating to Arlington, Massachusetts, with Thomas in 2001.

“Gracie’s father, James, moved to Arlington in 2006. Until this fall, Gracie had been a student at Arlington High School. In mid-August, Gracie began attending a boarding school in Hurricane, Utah. On the morning of Sunday, October 20th, Gracie and fifteen other girls and school staff were enroute to a full day excursion in Arches Natural Park when the staff driver of their SUV lost control and the vehicle rolled over outside of Sevier, Utah. …

“Gracie was an unusually creative, intuitive, affectionate and sensitive young woman with a shy smile, beautiful eyes and a deep, feeling soul. She was an accomplished figure skater, an avid reader and a budding artist who created evocative and vibrant abstract works in soft pastels. But her main passion was writing. A brilliant and imaginative writer of both short and longer fiction and poetry, she aspired to a career in professional writing.

“Gracie’s gifts for caring, compassion and emotional connection touched everyone she met as shown by the outpouring of grief and support expressed by her peers at both her current and former schools. The day after her death, grieving students at Arlington High School wore green, symbolizing peace and honoring her memory. …

“The family invites donations in lieu of flowers to the newly established ‘Gracie James Foundation,’ which will focus on closing the gaps in systems of support for local teens. Donations can be sent to 76 Paul Revere Road, Arlington, MA 02476.”

Life is precious, Guys. I do like to think that at least people are reminded of the life of this young girl as they make art for the competition or, like me, drive by during the months that the banners are displayed.

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sheku-kanneh-mason-2-credit-lars-borgesPhoto: Lars Borges
As of February 2, 18-year-old Sheku Kanneh-Mason was 2018’s best-selling British debut artist – across all genres.

Here’s another story celebrating a young person who thinks differently and opens a new path. He’s a musician in the United Kingdom who refuses to limit himself to one kind of music — and shows that one can excel in different genres.

Katy Wright at Rhinegold Publishing reports, “Sheku Kanneh-Mason has become this year’s best-selling British debut artist – across all genres – to enter the Top 20 in the Official UK Albums Chart with his album Inspiration.

“The release, which features repertoire ranging from Shostakovich to Bob Marley, has entered the main chart at No. 18, and is at No. 1 in the classical chart.

“The 18-year-old is the first BBC Young Musician to break into the pop chart with his debut album, as well as the youngest cellist ever to reach the Top 20 and the youngest classical artist to break into the Official UK Albums Chart in almost a decade. …

“The album … features Shostakovich’s first cello concerto – the piece which propelled Sheku to fame as the first black winner of BBC Young Musician in the competition’s 38-year history – and Kanneh-Mason’s own arrangement of Bob Marley’s ‘No Woman, No Cry’.

“Kanneh-Mason is the top streamed young classical artist, having received 2.5 million streams on Spotify alone.”

Wikipedia adds some biographical details. “Sheku Kanneh-Mason grew up in Nottingham, England. He is the third eldest of the seven children of Stuart Mason (a business manager) and Kadiatu Kanneh (a former university lecturer), and began playing the cello at the age of six, having briefly played the violin. At the age of nine, he passed the Grade 8 cello examination with the highest marks in the UK, and won the Marguerite Swan Memorial Prize. …

“In 2015, he and his siblings were competitors on Britain’s Got Talent as The Kanneh-Masons. He won the BBC’s Young Musician of the Year contest in May 2016, later telling The Observer that appearing on Britain’s Got Talent had been ‘a good experience for getting used to performing in front of lots of people, with cameras and interviews.’ …

“Kanneh-Mason is a member of the Chineke! Orchestra, which was founded by Chi-chi Nwanoku for black and minority ethnic classical musicians. …

“In 2016, Kanneh-Mason told The Guardian‘s Tom Service that ‘Chineke! is a really inspiring project. I rarely go to a concert and see that kind of diversity in the orchestra. Or in the audience. Having the orchestra will definitely change the culture.’ …

“In January 2018, it was reported that Kanneh-Mason had donated £3,000 to his former secondary school, enabling ten other pupils to continue their cello lessons.” More at Wikipedia, here.

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Photo: Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff
Attorney Elizabeth Read led a session at “Know Your Rights Day” at Boston International Newcomers Academy, a high school.

The lawyer in the photo above is someone I met in April, when we were both volunteering in a Jewish Vocational Service class for Haitians learning English. I was surprised to see her picture the very next day in the Boston Globe, doing a related kind of volunteer work. She certainly has found multiple ways to serve.

Evan Allen wrote, “Attorney Elizabeth Read stood before the classroom full of teenage immigrants at Boston International Newcomers Academy [and] explained their rights if they are ever detained by an immigration official.

“ ‘You have the right to make a phone call,’ she told them Friday afternoon, as their teacher translated into Spanish.

If you are detained, they can take your cell. You must memorize phone numbers. It’s hard! But you must.’ …

“The talks were organized by the Political Asylum/Immigration Representation Project and conducted by volunteer lawyers. …

“The PAIR Project has trained more than 300 lawyers across the state, and delivered 250 presentations to 10,000 people in community centers, health centers, churches, and schools. …

“ ‘I feel sad,’ said 15-year-old Alvaro … ‘I’m with my dad here, and at any minute, immigration could come and there’s nothing we can do.’

“All the students were given red cards to hand to immigration authorities that outline their rights, including the right to remain silent and to refuse to allow authorities to enter their homes. Alvaro said feeling prepared was a relief. …

“[Headmaster Tony] King said he has tried to reassure students by explaining their rights, reminding them that politicians in Massachusetts support immigrants, and talking to Muslim girls who wear head scarves about what to do if someone becomes aggressive. He gave them numbers to call — including his own — if they need help. …

“Sowda Roble, a 16-year-old Somali refugee wearing a sparkling silver headscarf and a Red Sox shirt, said through a translator that America is a country where ‘every opportunity — education, everything — is available.’

“She arrived here from a refugee camp in February 2016 with her mother and two brothers; four other siblings and her father stayed behind. …

“ ‘I know what it feels like to be in a refugee camp, and wait for hope. It hurts. [All of a sudden,] you are told the hope dies.’ Sowda started to cry. She had walked for days through the desert to the refugee camp, people dying around her, she said.

“The Know Your Rights presentation from the attorney, she said, was helpful. And she still loves America. The people ‘have good hearts.’ ”

More at the Globe, here.

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I was interested in an article in today’s NY Times about a school that gives chronically failing students another chance. It succeeds against all odds, but success is a slow process. New York’s mayor is not a fan, because many kids take six years to graduate.

Aniah McAllister, once a lost and wandering soul, has one of the happier stories. Reporter Michael Powell writes that she seems amazed to have earned 46 credits and to be headed to college.

“ ‘This school made realize,’ she says, ‘that I am much better than I thought I was.’

“That’s a pretty fair bottom line for any school,” writes Powell, “although in the up-is-down world of public education in New York, it might just be an epitaph for this small marvel of a high school. Known as a transfer high school, Bushwick Community admits only those teenagers who have failed elsewhere. Most students enter at age 17 or 18, and most have fewer than 10 credits.

“You can muck around quite a bit trying to find someone who has walked the school’s corridors, talked to its students and faculty, and come away unmoved. Most sound like Kathleen M. Cashin, a member of the State Board of Regents and a former superintendent. ‘They care for the neediest with love and rigor,’ she said. ‘They are a tribute to public education.’ ”

Read the article. I’m hoping it will have an influence on the policymakers and let an initiative that sounds so positive keep going.

Aniah McAllister, left, Justin Soto and Kassandra Barrientos attend Bushwick Community High School. Photograph: Kirsten Luce, NY Times

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