Alessia Cis

Commissioned as a birthday gift, Alessias Roman Bear is a whimsical fusion of classical culture and the animal kingdom.

Courtesy Alessia Cis

Commissioned as a birthday gift, Alessia’s Roman Bear is a whimsical fusion of classical culture and the animal kingdom.

When Los Altos senior Alessia Cis joined the National Art Honor Society last year, she certainly didn’t envision herself meticulously painting a toga on a fiberglass bear six months later. But when Rotarians reached out to the club with the opportunity, she knew her experience as an AP Latin student would lend itself perfectly to the Roman Bear.

Alessia enjoys giving back to the community through art, an interest stemming from childhood arts festivals where she frequented do-it-yourself ceramic booths. But this was her first time taking the hobby in a professional direction.

The 20-inch bear was commissioned as a birthday gift for the sponsor’s daughter. Sporting a toga, a laurel wreath and sandals, the Roman Bear took about three weeks to complete. The toga is embellished with various depictions of Roman architecture like the Colosseum and the Pantheon, along with a statue of Juno painted right on the back.

“The Juno statue is a family heirloom,” Alessia said. “Someone in her family found it at an archaeology dig, and it’s been in the family ever since. The sponsor was planning on putting it on the bear to give it to her daughter, to pass it onto the next generation — I’m sure she’ll really like it.”

The whimsical task of combining animals and architecture forced Alessia out of her comfort zone. Faced with two unfamiliar fields, she relied on research and experimentation to guide her efforts, and is proud of her bear.

“The fur was certainly a part that was tedious, but it also certainly paid off,” Alessia said. “The bear took a lot of hours; it felt like it would never end. So once you finally see it all coming together, it’s really satisfying.”

The Roman Bear can be found perched outside of Lisa’s Tea Treasures, proudly surveying its empire.