They had been bricks and tiles and dishes, found in buildings scattered across Napa. Then the earthquake thrashed them into jagged shards, fit only for the trash bin – or, instead, for a special high school art project.

On Tuesday, more than 50 ninth-graders at New Technology High School received, not textbooks or notepads, but three plastic tote baskets filled with debris produced by the Aug. 24 temblor. The teenagers fished out dust-covered bricks and smashed pottery – starting a week-long project, Napa-Rocks, to convert the earthquake’s discards into small works of art, using hammers, paint and imagination.

Members of the art project’s creator, Family Service of Napa Valley, hope the rubble-to-art project by New Tech freshmen will salvage some peace of mind as well as household artifacts.

“The goal is to preserve some historic buildings in Napa through art, and engage students in the healing process after the quake,” said Michele Farhat, Family Service’s director of development. “It’s like transforming rubble into art is transforming shock into calm.”

If the craftworks are meant to help young Napans cope with the quake’s aftermath, they also are meant to sustain Family Service – which was left in limbo by the quake.

Pieces made at New Tech High will be sold at local businesses or auctioned to raise money for the 64-year-old mental health service group, whose downtown offices at 709 Franklin St. were yellow-tagged and closed due to earthquake damage. Jessica Provenza, a Family Service development associate, said the agency plans to extend the Napa-Rocks program to students in other local schools.

At New Tech, ninth-graders began handling chunks of mosaic plates, a bluebird-patterned mug with the handle snapped off, even three nails recovered from a damaged 19th-century storefront. Students also were invited to bring quake-battered items from their own homes to incorporate into their projects.

Two girls playfully studied a coral-hued, vaguely pie-shaped wedge that might have been a vase before the magnitude-6.0 quake hurled it onto a floor.

“I thought I’d take this and make a pizza cutter out of it,” Ruby Llewelyn said half-jokingly.

“It represents (the idea that) even when something falls down, you can make something new,” added her classmate, Meghan Morrison.

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“And celebrate pizza,” answered Ruby.

“And celebrate life!” quipped Meghan with a slight laugh.

Work on the earthquake’s remnants was planned to continue through Friday at New Tech, but at least one fragment found its new form by the end of the first class. Under the fingers and brushes of Emma Ware, a stray black clock hand had become a miniature image of darkened skyline, far more peaceful than the night that inspired it.

“I was thinking about when I woke up after the quake, all I could see was the damage in my own house because it was dark,” she said. “When the light came, you could see the damage in the city, but then at night it looked like not much had happened.”

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City of Napa/Town of Yountville Reporter

Howard Yune covers the city of Napa and the town of Yountville. He has been a reporter and photographer for the Register since 2011, and previously wrote for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat, Anaheim Bulletin and Coos Bay (Oregon) World.

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