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Of checkers, flowers and hummingbirds

Youth volunteer David putting finishing touches to the Mosaic depicting symbols of the Scottish, Swedish, Amah Mutsun culture  that he mainly crafted

Yesterday afternoon at the Muzzio mosaic workshop the bell rang. It always rings when one of the 4×8” (1x2m) mosaic boards is finished. Everyone stood in awe around the table. The mosaic depicts symbols of 3 cultures: a brown and black checkered and a green thiestel head for  Scotland, blue pastell colored flowers on a white background standing for Sweden and a sparkling humming bird representing the Amah Mutsun culture which were the Indian population that lived here around Watsonville for thousands of years before the Spanish came.

The population of Watsonville is characterized by many waves of immigrants that came to work in the agricultural industry since centuries. People from all over the world were drawn to California to make a better living through manual labour on the fields. Now the population of  Watsonville is 85% Mexican.

From a small exhibition about the history of immigration and agriculture at the Watsonville public library I took this quote:

 

Finished Scottish, Swedish, Amah Mutsun Culture board at the Muzzio Mosaic Community Workshop in Watsonville.

This is a 5 year community art project to decorate the city garage entirely with mosaics featuring the cultural roots of the people of Watsonville. Last week I was helping to shape the birds wings 🙂 The Hummingbird in the Amah Mutsun culture stands for the controlled fires they set to their land to promote the growth of seed bearing annuals. The flapping of the wings of the hummingbird resembles the flapping of fans to control fire.

At the Muzzio

The Muzzio is the city of  Watsonville’s community mosaic workshop. Here every afternoon members of the community drop in and help beautifying their city with mosaic works.

On Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays Highschool Students are coming after school to spend a few hours winding down from busy school day breaking and setting mosaic pieces with their AirPods in their ears. When I arrived on September 6 a Croatian board was being started using very small tiles to depict the stitches of a needle work with the typical pattern from Croatia.

On Wednesdays is women’s day at the Muzzio. The atmosphere is more chatty! Together with Helga and Suzanne, two Germans I am working on the design featuring a Chinese dragon and a Jewish Star symbols for the family of the main private sponsor of the project. How long will it take?

On Sunday I met the Mekiz family of Croatian heritage working on their panel. They submitted the design, sponsored the material and installation costs and now came to spend a creative family afternoon together.

The city of Watsonville has taken on this community arts project about two and a half years ago. They are decorating their City garage (Park Haus) with mosaic!

Art director and manager of this ambitious project is Kathleen Crocetti a middle school arts teacher well known in the area of Santa Cruz and Watsonville for her public art initiatives. Kathleen decided to take on Antonio Gaudi 🙂 and make Watsonville as famous as Barcelona for its mosaics. Her most recent project is to decorate the rather blunt walls of the city garage with mosaic. She is not seeking to get creative here herself, rather she involves community from the design stage onwards.

The first phase of the project was to cover the 4 large areas where the staircases of the buildings are. For this the city called for submissions of designs by local artists. The population had to vote on the designs. 4 woodcuts from Juan Fuentes won.

 

Renowned artist, Juan Fuentes, former Watsonville resident and alumni of Watsonville High School, is honored to have us use his images for this project. We selected four pieces of his work which were enlarged and fabricated into mosaics.

The ribbon like horizontal areas of the building sparked the idea to have the community at large participate in sending designs that symbolize their families cultural roots. In a first call for submissions 90 families sent in their designs. But this would only fill half of the segments given by the expansion lines of the concrete elements. So Kathleen wrote a curriculum for Highschool arts students and her fellow arts teachers happily cooperated. In came 50 more submissions. Many families are of mixed heritage. Like in this board: the checkered pattern represents Schottland, the pastel flowers on white background is Swedish and the Hummingbird a symbol of

“Our project Watsonville Brillante aims to represent multi-ethnic patterns of particular family units on the 185 horizontal portions of the garage’s exterior and place each family’s representation next to another family’s representation in such a way that their common heritages overlap with a shared visual pattern. Combined, they will represent our community as a whole.” (From the project’s website https://communityartsempowerment.org/mosaic-design-process/

To design and craft your family’s and your neighbors cultural symbols as a piece of mosaic art which then will be publicly displayed for centuries at one of the main buildings of your city – this should make the people of Watsonville proud and happy to live here.

And I am happy to be able to experience it not only online! Thank you for Kathleen to be such a thoughtful mentor and to the whole Community Arts and Empowerment Team to have me with you !

Watsonville city garage and casa Batlló

“In the rose garden”, Asian flower grower, 6x18m, design by Juan Fuentes, fabrication into mosaic design Kathleen Crocetti, crafted by community volunteers, installed by local company Rinaldi Tile and marble Inc.

What is it with casa Batlló in Barcelona/Spain and the city garage of Watsonville/CA?
Casa Batllò in Barcelona is advertised as the “House of inspiration”. The façade of casa Batllò is covered in beautiful mosaic.

The city garage of Watsonville/CA is a 5 storie park house (as we Germans say) that shall inspire inhabitants of Watsonville to be involved in ,”Creative Place Making” and contemplate and take pride in their immigration history.
It’s grayish white facade is in the process of being covered by beautiful mosaics.


Antonio Gaudì designed the casa Batlló between 1904-6 in his modernist style playing with form and colors for interior and exterior.

Casa Batlló, Barcelona, Photo Sara Darcay , downloaded from Unsplash.com

The people of Watsonville designed the mosaics for the mosaics of the city garage building…

“Our project Watsonville Brillante aims to represent multi-ethnic patterns of particular family units on the 185 horizontal portions of the garage’s exterior and place each family’s representation next to another family’s representation in such a way that their common heritages overlap with a shared visual pattern. Combined, they will represent our community as a whole.” (From the project’s website)

Artist Ket Conway submitted the design of two dragons symbols of her Chinese heritage


We don’t exactly know who made and installed the mosaics on casa Batllò at the time.

Photo Marcel Strauss, accessed via unsplash.com

In Watsonville all mosaics are being made by youth volunteers and the Watsonville community at large in a five year “community arts& empowerment “ project between 2018-23 under the direction of artistic director & manager Kathleen Crocetti.

“Rinaldi Tile and Marble “ a local company has taken on the professional installation of the mosaic panels as the main sponsor of this community mosaic project.

The city of Watsonville commissioned the art piece and gave the building of a community centre to be the city’s mosaic workshop for 5 years.

Please read more about what’ s going on “At the Muzzio”.

Youth volunteers at Muzzio Community Centre in Watsonville