North Seattle College started its mural program under President Mark Mitsui in 2014 and it continues today. With the support of the Art Council and wider campus community, the art department and many talented students have brought these vibrant murals to life on North's walls. With each new mural brings a renewed focus celebrating our iconic campus architecture, cultural diversity of our students, staff, community, and our place on indigenous land.
For each mural project, students in Kelda Martensen's ART 204: Mural Art course are teamed up with the design of a professional artist. Students learn the ins and outs of painting public art murals, from budgets and schematics, to paint application and preservation. For more information on the mural course, as well as other art department offerings, visit: NSC's Art Program page.
Spring 2023 Mural
Statement of Interest
As someone from the Mexican diaspora I am aware of the complicated nature of the identity of being an immigrant or the child of immigrants, something many in the greater Latine community experience. Of the pull between where you came from and where you are. Sometimes it can feel like you belong to neither place. All my life I have felt cut off from something integral to me. At the same time, I am aware of the great risk, sacrifice, and hard work my parents had to experience in order to get to where they are. Of the loss they can’t fully put into words, and the pride they hold for what they have achieved. I am aware how many of us come from dreamers, and how many of us hold very tightly to our own dreams. This tension point is something I feel very passionate about, and want to be explored more.
Murals are an incredibly direct way to connect to your community. Murals are public and accessible to anyone. I want to connect to people with my art, and to engage in collective dreaming. The real value in art is the conversations it can start and the ideas it can communicate. If I am to create art, I want it to reach the people closest to me, people who I am neighbors with, as that is when those ideas and conversations can really start to make a difference. I would be so grateful to have this opportunity to facilitate a conversation about this complex identity, the joy that can be found in the common threads that unite us, and the value of dreaming for a world more tightly knit together. And that maybe in doing that, I can find my own place in the community.
Proposal Statement for North Seattle College Latine Mural
I began this process reflecting on the common experience Latine folks have in the United States- that of coming here. Of having to leave home behind, for a multitude of different reasons, and ending up in a new place. Or of being born here, aware of a different home that you could have had, and uncertain of which one you truly belong to. It can be a difficult process to go through, but in every story I have heard, the way through is with other people. Other people who have gone through that journey before, literally or metaphorically, and can offer you guidance and community.
Old symbols can speak to current experiences, and it is important to remember and carry those old stories to understand what connects us through time. In that commonality we may find the answers of what connects us at this moment. The main motifs I used in this piece were the Arbol de Vida and the mythology behind the Xoloitzcuintli.
As well as those influences, this piece was greatly informed by the purpose of the Opportunity Center. Described to me as where the college meets the greater community, it is a place welcoming anyone who needs support in shifting their life into the direction they want for themselves. I wanted to reflect that mission into the piece since this building was to be its home. The dog guiding the people on its back to a land of community and life is meant to be a fantastical, optimistic view of what could happen when one takes the leap and accepts that help.
The throughline between all these ideas and inspirations were the concepts of change, journeying, and community support. Change is a necessary, inevitable, and important part of life. Change is also something very difficult to experience by yourself. Change is something we all experience, and in that universality is the comfort that there will be many people open and willing to accompany you and help you throughout your journey. This piece represents the hope that whatever change the viewer is going through, they will find themselves in a world of fruitfulness and connection.
From night into day, from unknown into known, from journey into home. This piece is meant to be an encouragement and a welcome at once.
Arbol De Vida
The visual language of the tree in this piece took inspiration from the Arbol de Vida pottery created in Central Mexico. They showcase an absolute abundance and harmony of life. The tree in the piece is a symbol for interconnectedness, fruitfulness, and interdependence. A tree’s roots are almost mirrors of its branches, and every part of the tree, from the roots connecting to the earth, the branches and leaves creating shade, and the flowers and fruit providing sustenance to animals, interacts symbiotically with all life around it.
The dog in this piece is a Xoloitzcuintli, a dog native to Central America. Dogs were believed to carry the souls of the dead across a river to the afterlife, or otherwise to be a guide to souls going through the journey of death. In contrast, the Xoloitzcuintli in this piece is one that carries its riders not through death, but through the murky waters of change.
The Xoloitzcuintli is patterned with butterflies, to signify its mission as one of transformation and change.
Night to Day
The people in this piece are being transported from night to day, creating implication of rebirth and renewal. The sun is a figure of rebirth in stories spanning many indigenous cultures in Latin America. The journey through night was one of great change and transformation.
All the flora in this piece are plants or flowers native to Latin America. Included flowers are the Mburucuya (passionfruit) flower, the patuju, the dalia, the copihue and the sacuanjoche. The ground foliage is the guaimbe plant, native to Argentina.
The night sky that the people are emerging from is dappled in shooting stars, signifying hope and optimism. The Xoloitzcuintli also has the pattern of a shooting star, to showcase it’s benevolent intentions. This is to impress the idea that the state of unknown, though it can be scary, can also be a place of wish-fulfillment and dreaming.
All images and words copyright of Grace Gonzalez.
Past Community Murals