Ben Cruz, former Idyllwild Middle School student, is painting a mural in the front of the school entrance.
Photo by JP Crumrine

The tiled mosaic at the front of Idyllwild School has passed away. Weather on the Hill was too much for the fragile artwork, according to Principal Matt Kraemer.

However, the school’s entrance will still prominently display a significant art piece.

A mural, featuring Tahquitz Peak, will replace the delicate mosaic. Ben Cruz, former Idyllwild Middle School student and a 2017 graduate of Idyllwild Arts Academy, is painting the wall in front of the steps leading to the school’s entrance.

Kraemer knew Cruz and admired his work. He commissioned Cruz to do the mural this summer. Cruz’s goal is to have the mural completed by July 4.

He said he hasn’t done a mural this big, but has done some, including his bedroom wall.

Besides painting Tahquitz Peak overlooking Idyllwild, Cruz will include a mountain lion, as the mosaic did, and Rocky, the school’s mascot, standing on a rock.

When Kraemer reached out and invited him to create a public work of art, Cruz said, “I was surprised, but I thought it would be a good challenge.”

Painting is his calling. In the fall, he will attend the Kansas City Art Institute and major in painting. His career goal is to become a practicing artist.

The mosaic was crumbling. The weather, heat and humidity was destroying it. Pieces were on the ground and behind the cafeteria. Kraemer and the artist, Gary Parton, agreed it could not continue to be repaired. Rather than replace it with another mosaic that would also be temporary, Kraemer decided to invite Cruz to help his alma mater.

When completed, Kraemer does plan to apply a protective coating, especially against potential graffiti.