Photos by Garret Wood
Thanks to a $10,000 matching grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Borrego Springs art community has been able to create clay, glass, and steel panels for a mural on the exterior south wall of the Borrego Art Institute. Beginning in 2008, a variety of community members imprinted 12 square feet of 4-inch clay tiles as a demonstration project. In 2016, those tiles became the inspiration for the larger grant project, and now the mural consists of approximately 224 square feet of permanent artwork called "Celebrating the Arts in Borrego Springs.”
The process began with a five-member team from ThePottery, who designed the concept, broadly outlined the mural, and then brainstormed around the theme of “the Arts in Borrego Springs.” We had to narrow down which parts of our art-rich environment we would include in the mural. We decided on pottery, sculpture, painting, written word, music, filmmaking, photography, theater, architecture, glass work, dance, and flower and nature study ... as well as quirky expressions of imagination that would inevitably appear.
We announced our concept to the pottery community and local arts organizations. Participants sketched their ideas and then started turning their sketches into clay. Artists used many different techniques with the clay — hand building, slabbing, carving, wheel work, and underglaze painting — to convey their ideas in a way that would be clear to others. The clay tile art was created predominately at the Borrego Art Institute pottery program’s unique outdoor studio on the property of Borrego Springs High School.
Once the pieces were glazed and fired, individual panel installation began. While the yearlong process of sketching, planning, creating in clay, firing, and glazing took place at the outdoor pottery studio, the installation, assembly, and fabrication of the mural panels occurred in a donated indoor studio. This large space, located in a commercial storefront, allowed us to assemble the images on each panel as the clay and glass elements were finished. At the same time, this public space also gave members of the community an opportunity to watch the progress.
Mounting the mural pieces onto steel-framed, weather-resistant boards was an ongoing process. We completed sections of the mural as individual tiles were completed. Each panel evolved as its parts were completed and mosaic and grouting could occur. Because there were so many stages going on at one time, participants got a hands-on opportunity to learn about — or at least observe — the steps involved in putting up such a large piece of art. Another benefit of this process was that many of the people involved learned new skills related to clay and mosaic, such as cutting, gluing, grouting, cleaning, and polishing.
Over 150 members of the community participated in large and small ways in the process of planning, creating, and installing this surprising and memorable piece of art. In addition, the project’s supporters donated more than $10,000 to match the National Endowment for the Arts grant.
The completed mural was unveiled in a public ceremony on March 23, 2019. Close to 200 people attended. Celebrating the Arts in Borrego Springs is available day and night for everyone to enjoy and will draw attention to the importance of art in this community long into the future.
The mural is located on the outside south side wall of the Borrego Art Institute. (Sunset Road)