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OJAI, Calif., Wednesday, Aug. 31 – With a little help from their friends in the Ojai arts community, the Weil Tennis Academy can now literally boast about a lot of good fortune on the Ojai campus.

The Weil Tennis Academy, celebrating 20 years of operation in early 2017, is continuing some ongoing construction projects. As the result of a citywide ordinance stating that new development must set aside room for local art, the City of Ojai and the Arts Commission put academy founder and director Mark Weil in touch with longtime Ojai resident Jeff Sanders.

After a visit to the Weil Academy, Sanders had the idea that turned into the Fortune Cookie Philosophy Public Art Project. And on a warm mid-August day, Sanders began the installation of 32 total fortunes set to tile and placed around the Weil Academy campus.

“We wanted to keep it a multiple of eight, because in Chinese lore, eight is the lucky number,” Weil said. “So we thought 32, then when we wanted to expand it, we decided to add 16 more around the new courts we are constructing.”

Weil continued: “What I liked about the tiles is that a lot of these kids are international, some from China, and they’re here with dreams of either being a professional tennis player or to go to a great college like UCLA or Duke. So I felt like these fortunes were little reminders that the dreams are real – and there are a whole bunch of different ways to look at the dreams. Sometimes it’s a little saying, sometimes it’s a big splash, and this is really what turned me on to Jeff’s idea.”

“About five years ago I bought a box of fortune cookies,” recalls Sanders. “I think it weighs about five pounds, and I was going to do something with them. They’re all stale now. But as I was walking around campus seeing these quotes, like ‘Hard Work Equals Great Success,’ I thought about the fortune cookie idea and thought I could maybe make up some fortunes and selectively put them around the walkways, because there are miles of walkways. When I talked to Mark about it, he was like, ‘fortune cookies?’ But we selected some quotes and had them sent off to a place in Georgia that makes ceramic decals.”

Current Chairman of the Ojai Arts Commission Michael Addison was on hand to celebrate the first tile installation. “I’m here to celebrate the installation of a splendid piece of public art that will have impact on the lives of students here at Weil Academy, but also visitors and anybody who strolls through this lovely patio. The Arts Commission’s public art project is really at the forefront of what we do because it generates art that the public and community can enjoy.”

Said Interim Ojai City Manager Steve McClary: “This project has been very well received by both the Committee to Approve Public Art (CAPA) and the Arts Commission. I think the city is very pleased with how this has turned out. I think it’s a good example of how public art can enhance development and give a little bit of the Ojai character to great installations like this.”

Christine Golden, the Chair of the Ojai Committee to Approve Public Arts (CAPA) said the project typifies, more than any other public art project, how public art is not a burden on a developer or owner, but a blessing. “It was nice to see Mark’s evolution in understanding that this was going to be something that would enhance everything he was doing here, and leave a legacy for him in his name and for this Academy. If we could only get that word out to every developer who says ‘public art, oh my word!’ Mark actually said, ‘Christine, get me out of this!’ And then he called me about a week ago and said, ’would it be OK if we added 16 more tiles?’ That just says it all.”

She concluded: “This leaves a legacy for Mark Weil. This is forever for him. Whatever happens to this place, it’s stamped here. They should all get excited about it like Mark did.”