The Juan Tabo Library’s mosaic public art piece called Once Upon A Story Time has almost every color in the rainbow while depicting an actual rainbow and a narrative written through mosaic art.
Just as the first storytellers did, local artists collaborated on this piece to tell stories inspired by New Mexico storytellers. Woven into the mural is imagery from more than 20 New Mexican authors including Rudolfo Anaya, Luci Tapahonso, Paul Horgan, Fray Angelico Chavez, Simon Ortiz, Paula Gunn Allen, Pat Mora, Ernie Pyle, Denise Chavez and Hakim Bellamy.
Albuquerque Poet Laureate, Hakim Bellamy wrote a poem specifically about the piece in collaboration with the artists, which is stamped into the mural.
The lead artists on the piece are Vanessa Alvarado, Margarita Paz-Pedro and Cassandra Reid, while lead apprentices are Karly Catron-Cardell, Staci Drangmeister and Will Geusz.
The piece was commissioned to the Apprenticeships for leaders in Mosaic Arts, (ALMA) formerly known as the Mayor’s Art Institute, which has paid summer internships for young adults age 16-24 and has created more than 20 city public art projects throughout Albuquerque.
The program is funded through the New Mexico Youth Conservation Corps, city of Albuquerque Public Art Program, Albuquerque Bernalillo County Libraries, and Heart Gallery of New Mexico Foundation.
The piece was finished in 2014. Artists worked over nine weeks for 30 hours a week to finish the piece. During the program, students learned how to design, cut, glaze and bake tiles from wet clay in a kiln, in addition to installing and grouting these art pieces.
At the center of the mural, a storyteller recounts a tale by a fire. The glow of the fire contains tiles inscribed with rock art imagery depicting the original written stories of New Mexico, according to the ALMA site. The imagery on the walls behind her includes Spiderwoman in her web, as well as Rudolfo Anaya’s golden carp from Bless Me. Other depictions from New Mexico literature includes Simon Ortiz’ horses in the sky from “The Way You See Horses,” Pat Mora’s tortilla raft from Dona Flor, and a winged chile from Denise Chavez’ Face of an Angel. A rainstorm such as those described by Ernie Pyle or Edna Ferguson is also present. Many more authors’ names are inscribed on books in the libraries’ landscape, too. A theme common in New Mexican stories are rainbows, which bridges the two sides of the mural.
Embedded in the rainbow are hexagons containing ancient scripts from across the globe. The scripts are grouped in clusters that represent different geographical regions in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. The child reading on the grass is a representation of all children; he emphasizes the importance of literacy at all ages and the wonder of the imaginary worlds we enter through books and stories.
So next time folks might stop by the Juan Tabo Library, know there is an entire story laid out for patrons to see before even entering.
To see other ALMA mosaic projects throughout Albuquerque, check out the link here.