PLEASANTON -- A trio of ceramic urns weighing thousands of pounds will be installed at Foothill High School in the spring, becoming the city's newest work of public art.

"Uncontained Potential" is 6½ feet tall, was created from 3 tons of specially manufactured clay and designed by Pleasanton artist and Foothill High art teacher Nancy Scotto.

Scotto worked on the project with fellow Foothill art teacher Carolyn Fields. The sculpture was part of Scotto's master's thesis at the San Francisco Academy of Art and was designed specifically with the high school in mind, she said.

"We've looked at the campus for the last few years and always thought it would be nice to have some sculpture," Scotto said.

Foothill High School art teacher Nancy Scotto poses with her three-piece sculpture called "Uncontained Potential" that wlll be installed at
Foothill High School art teacher Nancy Scotto poses with her three-piece sculpture called "Uncontained Potential" that wlll be installed at Foothill High School this spring. (Courtesy of Vickie Jewett)

The creation of amphora vessels, which feature large oval bodies and narrow necks, have long been of interest to Scotto. The family of her husband, Dominic Scotto, owns Scotto Cellars in Lodi.

"They were used to carry whatever was precious to the society -- wine, olive oil ..." Nancy Scotto said. "Here, it represents our system of education and our students' potential -- our precious commodity.

"Also, humans represented as vessels is common," she added. "We're going through a lot of changes in California, with Common Core (curriculum) and talking about the best way to educate. I was thinking too about the potential of our system of education and the students' potential being uncontained and endless."

Because funding for such a piece is not uncontained and endless, Scotto obtained a promise last year of up to $10,000 from Foothill's previous Activities and Academic Booster Club. Her friend and mentor John Toki, a well-known Berkeley ceramic artist, arranged for most of the work to be done at Mission Clay in Phoenix, where he is associate director of the Art and Industry program. The company donated work space for Scotto and a small team of volunteers, along with use of its industrial-sized kiln and transportation of the art piece back to the Bay Area.

The promised $10,000 hasn't yet been paid, but it will be, said Beth McCarthy, president of this year's Foothill Parent Teacher Organization, which has a new set of board members.

"We inherited this (project)," McCarthy said. "We did broach the question -- what if we were to say no -- and met at length with Nancy to hear about the project, and we all agreed it was important to continue it and help them meet their goal. I don't think anyone questioned the value of the project, just the timing -- was this the right time to be doing such a massive project? But we wanted to follow through and make sure the commitment was met."

Foothill Principal Jason Krolikowski, new to the school this year, agrees.

"If I was at the beginning stages of this, I think we'd all be turned off a little by the dollar amount. It's a lot of computers we could buy ... and I'm always thinking every dollar we have I want to put back in our students' hands. There's always the balance. Where is the money best spent? But we don't want to lose sight of the arts program.

"There are plenty of reasons to point out why we shouldn't do this, but we should also focus on why we should," he said. "It's unique, and will be another thing Foothill will be known for."

In addition to working with Mission Clay, Scotto and Fields also raised thousands by donating a ceramics-and-appetizer evening auctioned at the school's annual Falcon Royale event. Also, the PTO is selling bricks to be personalized and included in a new walkway near the installation.

John Toki, who donated his consulting help and arranged for the work to be moved to its temporary site at Mitchell Katz Winery in Livermore, says it is an artistic accomplishment and a financial bargain.

"The value of something like this is about $50,000," he said. "The kiln firing, the studio space, engineering and technical work and transport. In the end, everyone who participated really believes in the project."

Installation at Foothill is expected to take place about mid-April.

The two largest urns weigh about 975 pounds each; one will be upright and the other on its side. A smaller, third vessel will appear to be emerging from the ground, and have lettered, ceramic tiles spilled around it. The tiles are being created by Foothill High art students and express their hopes and goals.

"(Nancy Scotto) is a remarkable artist," Beth McCarthy said. "This is a remarkable piece of art and will be a remarkable piece for Pleasanton, not just for Foothill."

FYI
Foothill High School's Parent Teacher Organization is selling commemorative bricks to raise funds for the "Uncontained Potential" art installation. The bricks will be incorporated into a new campus walkway leading to the artwork. Personalized bricks are $150, with corporate bricks available soon. For details, visit http://bit.ly/1n7NpUa.