It seemed a lucky break in January $1,000 won by someone who never wins these sort of things.
But for months now, in the tight quarters of an American River College ceramics lab, where students crowd together five to six to a table, the journey from good fortune to idea is taking shape.
It is a mural, 6 feet by 40 feet, that will symbolize the opportunities the college offers a chance at a clean slate and a fresh start with its themes of evolution, connection, transformation, compassion and knowledge.
The mural is expected to be installed next spring at ARC's Disabled Students Programs and Services offices.
"When you go into the classroom, they don't know anything about you. The only thing they care about is what you do going forward," said Louise Kronick. "It's up to you. But we give you the tools."
A counselor at disabled services for 30 years on the ARC campus, Kronick won the special award from the president's office in January that made the mural project possible.
She knows something about fresh starts. Over the years, she's mentored many looking to the college for just that.
The ARC campus already has seven vivid murals and mosaics many created under the watchful eye of artist and ceramics professor Linda Gelfman.
The group working on the new mural is in the ART 391 class. For many of the students, their journeys mirror the mural's themes of second chances and the collection of people who make up the American River campus.
"We've certainly experienced transformation," said student Maureen Murray. "We've learned how to do this on our own and now there's a class full of mural makers in the world. We don't have community in the modern day like this. The process was a real education in itself."
Inevitably, their life stories find their way into the clay.
Elaine Hudson of Citrus Heights was laid off from a telecommunications job late in her career only to return to the art she loved all along.
Hudson said she took the class as a lark, and was inspired not only by the art, but by the mishmash of people who came together to create it.
"I've been an artist my whole life and I decided to go back to doing what I loved," she said, standing over her team's section of the project. The mural panel depicts an open book sprouting from tree limb-like hands. "We need more of this. This is what feeds the soul. This is my sanity."
Meschelle White deferred her goal of becoming a dental hygienist while she raised her children. She shook off her fears of going back to school to pursue that goal. Today, art is both expression and release.
Art "was going to be the calm in all the storms I was going through," White said.
"I was going on an arduous journey" she said of returning to school, while smoothing grout onto her section of mural.
Now, "I'm able to create. When you see a finished product, it's like what you want to see at the end of a journey."