WEST RIDGE — Students and staff at Daniel Boone Elementary School launched a contest and voting system to rebrand their school after deciding to ditch its racist namesake, but the winning name is causing some concern for a local nonprofit.
Boone’s change to Mosaic School of Fine Arts goes into effect July 1 following a Chicago Public Schools process to rebrand schools whose names honor people with racist histories. Daniel Boone was a frontiersmen and folk hero who was also a slaveholder and fought wars against Indigenous people.
Mosaic School of Fine Arts references the West Ridge school’s history of teaching the arts and is a fitting metaphor for its diverse group of students, officials said. The Chicago Board of Education approved the name change in October for Boone, 6710 N. Washtenaw Ave.
But Karen Ami, founder of Chicago Mosaic School in Edgewater, said she’s worried Boone’s new name could confuse neighbors and undermine her organization’s efforts to promote mosaic arts.
Chicago Mosaic School, 1127 W. Granville Ave., is an educational nonprofit dedicated to mosaics. Founded in 2005, it hosts mosaic classes for children and adults, helps commission mosaic installations in Chicago and has a mosaic gallery at its Granville Avenue headquarters.
“We built a worldwide reputation over 18 years with this name,” Ami said. “I hope it doesn’t dilute our prominence.”
Ami met with Boone and CPS officials last week to suggest tweaking the name to avoid confusion between the two Far North Side institutions.
“They heard our concerns but primarily vocalized that it was obvious to them that we are different schools,” Ami said. “We feel our request should be brought before the community and reconsidered.”
A CPS spokesperson did not comment on if the district would consider amending Boone’s new name but said officials support efforts to find more inclusive school names. The spokesperson said the school’s website, communications and other material will be distinct from Chicago Mosaic School.
“Chicago Public Schools is a welcoming district that works to create an inclusive and respectful school environment for every student,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “We continue to undertake the work to ensure that our school names represent the district’s values.”
As Boone began its renaming effort, students from every classroom submitted proposals, third grade teacher Halle Quezada said.
The classroom ideas were entered into a bracket-style voting contest. Students gave presentations on their choice and why it would make a good school name, Quezada said. Some community members also submitted proposals and gave presentations on their pitch.
The three finalists were Mosaic School of Fine Arts, Haven School of Fine Arts and Sarah Boone School of Fine Arts. Sarah Boone is a Black inventor.
Mosaic won. The name was submitted by a third grade class and referenced the school’s teaching of fine arts and the mosaics that adorn the facade and interior of the school, Quezada said.
The name also represents the diverse student body that comes together as one school community, Quezada said.
“We’re a bunch of different pieces that come together for something beautiful,” Quezada said. “There was a lot of [student] excitement for getting to say, ‘This is who we are.'”
Ami, of the mosaics group, thinks the name Mosaic School of Fine Arts indicates the literal advancing of mosaic arts. While the elementary school includes mosaics in its fine arts curriculum, it is not dedicated to spreading the art form like her organization is, she said.
Ami has suggested the school amend its name to Mosaic School of Fine and Performing Arts.
“‘Mosaic’ is a beautiful metaphor for diversity and bringing unrelated elements together in unification, which we use often,” Ami said in an email. “However, when the words ‘Fine Art’ come after ‘Mosaic,’ it is a direct indication about mosaic as an art form, not a community.”
The use of “fine arts” in the name designates the school as one of 70 CPS schools with special curriculums dedicated to fine or performing arts, according to the school district.
Despite the separate missions, both institutions work to advance the practice of fine arts. Chicago Mosaic School has aided Boone’s efforts in the past, as Quezada said she ordered mosaic kits from the nonprofit for a pandemic-friendly art project for her class.
Those efforts can be amplified through further collaborations, Quezada said.
“If anything, I think it can bring more opportunities to both,” Quezada said. “We can lift each other up.”
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast”: