at the unveiling ceremony

The Unity Tree

Unity Tree Unveiled May 26

  The Unity Tree in John Jay High School's main hallway was unveiled on Friday, May 26.

The Unity Tree is a mosaic made of hundreds of hand-painted tiles. The completed installation will be a surprise for teachers, administrators, and even most of the students who worked on the project. 

“The officers of the Art Club—Zoe Shaw, Kate Rodgers and Corneil Smith—came up with the idea of the Unity Tree in early 2017,” said Judi Offenberg, visual arts teacher at JJHS and liaison to the club.

 “The students were very troubled by the election problems and the swastikas,” she continued, referring to the string of hate symbols found on Katonah-Lewisboro property this past winter. “They wanted to design something that could encourage a unified and peaceful school community."

  The Unity Tree fulfills the Art Club's vision in both its composition and its process. The Art Club designed the tree with many kinds of birds and animals in its branches and invited the whole school community to participate in its creation. They hosted a “ tile afternoon" in the hallway where all students, teachers, and administrators could paint tiles and be part of the experience.

“It was their idea to welcome everyone to help glaze the tiles,” said Offenberg. "It seemed like it was being worked on all the time. It’s been really exciting to see it come to fruition.”



a glimpse at the process


  1. Art Club officers Zoe Shaw, Kate Rodgers, and Corneil Smith designed and drew the mural plan out on very large paper and color coded it. 
  2. Many students helped make the tiles—rolling out the clay in the slab roller, cutting the blank tiles, and smoothing them out.
  3. Mrs. Offenberg fired the tiles in the kiln.  
  4. The Art Club cut the mural drawing into 4 1/2" square paper tiles and numbered them carefully.  
  5. Each student carefully transferred the design for each tile onto the actual blank tile with special transfer paper. 
  6. They glazed each tile with the appropriate glaze colors.  Each glaze color needed to be applied with three coats.  
  7. Mrs. Offenberg fired the tiles again in batches at a higher temperature than the first firing.
  8. Students made test tiles to see what the glazes would look like.
  9. The Art Club invited students from art classes to work on the mosaic. They also set up tables in the hallway so that all students, teachers, and administrators could paint tiles and be part of the experience.


The Art Club thanks the PTO for funding this project, and Andrea Kantor, Staff Developer, for her encouragement. They also thank Herb Erker and John Santoiemma, from the District’s maintenance crew, for teaching them the best way to grout and helping grout the mural, as well as hanging the mural and building  the frame.