Photos by Garret Wood
An award of a $10,000 matching grant from the National Endowment of the Arts enabled the art community of Borrego Springs, California to create clay, glass and steel mural panels for the exterior south wall of the Borrego Art Institute. Beginning in 2008 a variety of community people imprinted 12 square feet of 4” clay tiles as a demonstration project. These existing tiles became the inspiration for the larger grant project in 2016 and created the base for the approximately 224 square foot permanent artwork celebrating the Arts of Borrego Springs.
The process began with the 5 member Pottery team, designing the concept and broad outlines for the mural, and then brainstorming about the theme of the Arts in Borrego Springs and the parts of our art-rich environment that we wanted to include. We decided on pottery, sculpture, painting, written word, music, film-making, photography, theater, architecture, glass work, dance, and flower and nature study as well as quirky expressions of creative imagination which 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. Many different techniques - hand building, slabbing, carving, wheel work, and underglaze painting - were used with the clay to convey these ideas so that they would be clear to others. The creation of the tile art predominately in clay was done at the Borrego Art Institute Pottery Program’s unique outdoor studio on the property of the Borrego Springs High School.
Once the pieces were glazed and fired, individual panel installation began. While the year long 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 store front allowed us to put together the images on each panel as clay and glass elements were finished. At the same time, this public space also provided members of the wider community an opportunity to watch the progress of completing the mural panels.
Mounting the mural pieces onto steel framed weather-resistant boards was an ongoing process as individual tiles were completed for sections of the mural. 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 it gave the participants a hands-on opportunity to learn or at least observe the steps involved in putting up a such large piece of art. Another benefit of this process is 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, supporters of the project donated in excess of $10,000 to match the National Endowment for the Arts grant.
The completed mural was unveiled in a public ceremony on Saturday March 23, 2019. Close to 200 people attended. Celebrating the Arts in Borrego Springs will be available both day and night for local residents and many visitors to enjoy, drawing attention to the importance of art in this community for a long time in the future.
The mural is located on the outside south side wall of the Borrego Art Institute. (Sunset Road)