Hubbell is perhaps best-known in the San Diego area for his unusual hand-built home and studio in Santa Ysabel, which was destroyed in the Cedar Fire in 2003. During his fifty-year career in the arts, Mr. Hubbell has shared his inspiring vision of the spirit of nature made tangible in glass, wood, metal, concrete, and stone. His work is in homes, schools, gardens, pavilions, nature centers and peace parks around the globe. How did this famous artist’s work come to be tucked away in Clairemont?
In 1962 the International Order of the Rainbow for Girls, a non-profit service organization, commissioned Mr. Hubbell to create a “Rainbow Playground” as a gift for the children of The Sunshine School. The Sunshine School was located on what is now the East Campus of Lindbergh Schweitzer Elementary School in Clairemont. It was a school for children with various mental and physical handicaps. According to the Rainbow for Girls website, the original cost of the sculptures was just $4,120.
For the Rainbow Playground, Hubbell created fantastic versions of playground toys, whimsical shapes reminiscent of dinosaurs and teepees. The sculptures are hand made of cement over metal armatures. Colored glass and mosaic tiles break up the surfaces and add color. Tiny drawings and initials are scratched into some surfaces, as if a child had done it. The school’s children enjoyed climbing on the unique sculptures or hiding inside them.
Over time, the playground fell into disuse and some of the sculptures had sustained some damage. About 15 years ago, another well-known sculptor and colleague of James Hubbell’s, Alber De Matteis, restored the sculptures. Sadly, the sculptures again deteriorated.
Fortunately in 2007 the school’s principal, Bonnie Remington, and the media production assistant / volunteer coordinator, Julie Harris, recognized what a treasure the school held and spearheaded the effort to convert the playground into a sculpture garden for the staff and students of the school to enjoy.
The sculpture garden is located adjacent to the building that houses the California Children’s Services therapy unit on the East Campus. Shaded by a tree that was planted at the same time the sculptures were installed and surrounded by fanciful, colorful sculptures, the Rainbow Sculpture Garden provides a lovely place for the students and staff to take a break.