Architect Frank Gehry visits East Palo Alto elementary school

EAST PALO ALTO, Calif. (KGO) -- It was a special day at Costaño Elementary School. The 10-year-old students probably didn't even realize how special.

Architect Frank Gehry, who turned 90 this year, took over the 4th-grade classroom of the East Palo Alto school on Tuesday afternoon. The man known for designing some of the world's most iconic buildings-- including the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and, locally, the new Facebook campus in Menlo Park-- now asked these kids to dream up a building of their own.

"I found that if I got them involved in making things, making art," Gehry said, "You could, once they got into it, you could teach a lot of the stuff, like math."

Gehry's visit was part of a program he co-founded called Turnaround Arts: CA -- which brings art to underserved schools. Facebook Sustainability has been instrumental in bringing and funding the program at Costaño Elementary the past three years.

The materials Gehry brought for the kids to use-- cardboard boxes, wood, plastic-- is part of the same process he and his team use to create their own work.

At this school, the students had a lot of ideas.

Emoni Stuart said her friends were building a school and she was building a school bus. Other projects included a courthouse, a city hall, and even a "Frank Gehry's Chicken," which Gehry himself approved of.

"We should build more of them," he joked.

At Costaño Elementary, 60-percent of the students are homeless. Principal Viviana Espinosa says Turnaround Arts as made a huge difference.

"Both of our English Language Arts and math scores have increased," Espinosa said. "Suspensions have greatly reduced."

Turnaround Arts launched in 2014. It now serves 27 schools throughout the state.

"In a couple of hours you can't do a lot," Gehry said, "But you can open eyes and minds."
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