If you happen to drive down Cashman Drive near 44th Street, you may have noticed that there is a new addition gracing the main entrance of Desert Trails Elementary.  On Tuesday, May 10th, 6th Grade students and a number of special guests, gathered to celebrate the installation of a public sculpture, titled “Arizona Sky.”  It is the first project of its kind for Desert Trails, and also the first of its kind in the Paradise Valley Unified School District.

Contributed by: Maureen Peterson, DTES Art Specialist

You may have noticed that we have a new addition near the main entrance of our school.  On Tuesday, May 10th our 6th Grade students and a number of special guests, gathered to celebrate the installation of our first public sculpture, titled “Arizona Sky.” It is the first project of its kind for Desert Trails, and also the first of its kind in the Paradise Valley Unified School District.

The project began in the fall of 2015, and it took many people working together to make it happen.  Mrs. Peterson’s vision was for the 6th Grade students to design a model in art class, for a large-scale, public sculpture that would be permanently installed in front of our school.  The sculpture would add artistic beauty to our school and community, and it would be a remembrance of the 6th Grade class, after they move on to Middle School.

First, Mrs. Peterson contacted Mr. Kartler, the Welding teacher at Paradise Valley High School, and tell him about her idea. Once Mr.Kartler was on board to work with us, we had to get approval from our PTO, from the School District, and from the neighborhood homeowners association.


Next, Mrs. Peterson taught a lesson to the 6th Grade students on “public art” and sculpture.  The assignment was to design and build a model for a sculpture that would later be enlarged in welded metal.  The theme was “Arizona.”  That could be interpreted many ways –Arizona landscapes, plants, animals, climate, history, education, students, sports, cultures, etc.  It could be realistic OR abstract.

When the models were completed, the 6th grade students voted for the one they felt would be the best one to represent their class.  It was VERY hard to vote, because everyone did such a great job!

Isabella Swanson created the winning sculpture, titled “Arizona Sky”.   The shapes at the bottom represent the mountains and mesas in Arizona.  The round discs represent the bright Arizona sun, and the wavy strips represent the shapes and colors in our beautiful Arizona skies.


Now it was time to hand off the model to Mr. Kartler at Paradise Valley High School.  First, his students built a tabletop-size model, to plan the dimensions and scale for the final sculpture.

Next, they cut the pieces they needed out of sheets of metal, and welded them together, using the tabletop sculpture as their guide. Each shape on the sculpture was then sprayed with Rustoleum paint, in colors that matched the original model.  Finally, a clear coat of automotive paint was sprayed over the sculpture, to seal the paint and protect it from the elements.

Mr. Kartler, Mrs. Peterson and Ms. Duggan chose the spot in front of our school entrance for our sculpture, so that everyone will have the opportunity to enjoy it when they come to our school, or pass by.  This type of art is known as “Public Art”, because not only do the staff and students of Desert Trails get to enjoy it, but the general public gets to enjoy it, as well.

Desert Trails Elementary is a place where all things educational, cultural and artistic, are valued.

Our public art project reflects the idea that learning, extends beyond our school walls to our neighborhood community, as well as to our greater school district community, by teaming across grade levels with Paradise Valley High School.

We are proud of our sculpture, and very grateful to Mr. Kartler and his students for helping us with this project.   We congratulate Isabella Swanson for her winning design, and we thank our awesome PTO for providing the funds for us!