The mission of the James R. Watson and Judy Rodriguez Watson College of Education at Cal State San Bernardino could not be clearer to those passing by the ceramic tile artwork in front of the building.

Called “Eternal Learning,” the tile mural was formally unveiled during a ceremony on May 3.

Alison Ragguette, CSUSB professor of art and design, who directed the project, told the crowd that “Eternal Learning” took five years to make with the help of 20 students. She said it was first conceived by her students – now alumni – Adam Diaz and Melissa Medina.

“Their two proposals were actually merged together to create this project,” she said. “In my teaching, I always try to promote the positive impact of community artwork. It contributes to the creation of an inclusive public voice, one that can bring beauty to everyday life, resonating both personally and collectively.”

The artwork was “designed by students, made by students and for the students,” she said. “The mural is meant to inspire learning, celebrate education, achievements and continually self-reflect on our eternally learning selves.”

“The total length of 140 feet long that you will see is what I call a generational storybook,” said Judy Rodriguez Watson, as she described the images on the wall.

Watson then asked all the students and alumni who participated in the project to stand up and be recognized. The audience gave them a loud round of applause.

“You all have worked very hard for many, many years,” she said to them. “I am very, very honored to have my name associated with your names.”

Judy Rodriguez Watson speaks at the unveiling ceremony on May 3.
Judy Rodriguez Watson speaks at the unveiling ceremony on May 3.

Rafik Mohamed, provost and vice president for academic affairs, recognized “the generosity of CSUSB’s dedicated and longtime supporters James R. Watson and Judy Rodriguez Watson” who made the new piece of art possible.

“The artwork is a true masterpiece that captures the spirit and essence of our campus and will serve as a source of inspiration and wonder for our students, faculty, staff and visitors for generations to come,” he said.

Robert Nava, vice president for university advancement, also thanked the Watsons, with James ‘Jim’ Watson joining the event via FaceTime.

“Our appreciation – it’s hard to express it in words – all that you and Jim, the Watson family do for our university, for our college, for our programs, for art,” he said. “We want you and Jim to know our thanks and how much we appreciate this partnership.”

Rueyling Chuang, dean of the College of Arts and Letters, and Chinaka DomNwachukwu, dean of the College of Education, thanked everyone involved and acknowledged their invaluable partnership.

“For the past five years, even during the pandemic, they worked together to put this wonderful project together,” Chuang said. “This project is great example of how we integrate and how we collaborate in between departments.”

DomNwachukwu echoed Chuang.

“This project highlights the power of partnership and interdisciplinary engagement,” he said. “I hope this is a continuation of ongoing partnership to distinguish our colleagues and our university as the best place to prepare educators.”

Speeches took place in the Watson College of Education atrium before the outdoor unveiling.
Speeches took place in the Watson College of Education atrium before the outdoor unveiling.

Designed, created and installed by students, “Eternal Learning” consists of 850 square feet of ceramic tile that depicts humans at work, study and play among larger-than-life books, and included scenes of learning activities such as shared reading, conducting science experiments, playing basketball, and gazing at stars. Floating between the scenes are letters of the alphabet.

On a wall opposite the main portion of the mural is a scene depicting commencement. Called the “Selfie Wall,” it is envisioned as a place where graduates and their families and friends will pose for photos on a milestone day.

In between the two scenes is the “Language Wall,” where “Eternal Learning” will be translated in 65 languages, including sign language and Braille. And while 65 languages represent many, Ragguette said it can include more translations this way: A QR code has been created and incorporated on the wall, and visitors can make their own contributions, which will be compiled on Google list.

There is also a community component of the project.

“I always do community-based work to make sure that the community is engaged. And the offshoot of this project is that we created the Kind Art Collective Journal,” Ragguette said in a previous interview. “And Judy and Jim sponsored the creation of this book that’s a bilingual book, in English and Spanish, for children. And it’s about creativity and resilience. It’s kind of like a workbook. We’re creating art kits, handing out art supplies that go inside little tote bags with the book. And we’re also circulating copies of the book to a lot of different schools and non-profits for kids.

“And we’re about to start the next iteration that will be in Ukrainian and English,” she said.

The Watsons will be taking that over to Poland, where they will meet at the Ukraine-Poland border with officials from a Ukrainian university to present the books.

“Eternal Learning” is the fifth piece sponsored by the Judy Rodriguez Public Art Project. Ragguette worked on the first four, which are columns of ceramic art located along a median on Northpark Boulevard, west of the campus’ University Parkway entrance.

Alison Ragguette (left) and Judy Rodriguez Watson walk out of the atrium for the outdoor reveal.
Alison Ragguette (left) and Judy Rodriguez Watson walk out of the atrium for the outdoor reveal.

“It’s been about giving students the learning opportunity, and also the work experience,” Ragguette said. “And also, the confidence to go on to pursue careers in this area. I believe that students get to really prove to their families that there are viable projects out there, and that they can have a life as an artist.”

That ceramic was the chosen medium also plays into the concept of “Eternal Learning.”

“Students made it for incoming students. Then I have students who are currently in the credential program, and I asked them, ‘What does this mean for you to make something like this for your college. And they’re like, ‘Everything! And I can’t wait to come back with my kids some day and show them that I made this,’” Ragguette said.

“It will impact for generations. Ceramics, because it’s an archival material, is such a powerful medium for public art because of its longevity and its resilience – and relatability,” she said. “I think a lot of people have a relationship to the material, and have a sense of it. But to think decades into the future – these artists can come back and bring their children – it’s always going to be there and there will always be a connection. That connection is very vital. It doesn’t really fade because the material is so resilient.”

Involved with Ragguette, Diaz and Medina in the creation and installation of “Eternal Learning” were Judy Rodriguez Watson Public Art fellows Yvette Arguilles, Stacey Carrasco, Richard Concheri, Joanne Cuevas, Anna Delgado, Matt Dickerson, Frankie Gutierrez, John Harman, Sarah Hayashi, Keliegh McMullen, Luisa Notarangelo, Rosemary Rivas, Andrea Simpson, Holland Snipes, Evelyn Trinidad, Jocelyn Williams and Mayra Zambrano.

Assisting the artists in translating “Eternal Learning” for the “Learning Wall” were Teodora Bozhilova, Stacey Carrasco, Rueyling Chuang, Gerald Clarke, Juan Delgado, Chinaka DomNwachukwu, Dany Doueiri, Mika Efros, Riki Hayashi, Raymond Huaute, Bomi Hwang, Monika E. Justin, Ranjrani Kalra, Robert J. Levi, Thinh Li, Vai Matautia, Josephine Mendoza, Enrique Murillo Jr., Chris Naticchia, Sastry Pantula, Pinthusorn Pattayakorn, Patricia Preciado, Siska Purnawan, Golge Seferoglu, Pashaura Singh, Gulden Taner, George Antony Thomas, T ita'e Utuon and Kerstin Voigt.

“Eternal Learning” is the fifth piece sponsored by the Judy Rodriguez Public Art Project.
“Eternal Learning” is the fifth piece sponsored by the Judy Rodriguez Public Art Project.