"piecing together mesa"

interactive collaborative installation
mixed media
4' x 90'
2019-2021
IN COLLABORATION WITH:
Mesa Art Center
Mesa Prototyping Project
The City of Mesa
Downtown Mesa Association (DMA)
Neighborhood Economic Development Corporation (NEDCO)
LISC Phoenix
Mesa Urban Garden
Catholic Charities at Care
The Mesa Church
The Mesa Art Center, in collaboration with the Mesa Prototyping Project, worked with neighbors and community members to identify eleven (11) areas in two Mesa neighborhoods that offered opportunities for improvement.  During neighborhood walks, residents identified locations where creative intervention might be used to enhance attractiveness, safety, walkability, lighting, seating, or other various needs.  As a direct response to this, the Mesa Art Center put out a Call to Artists for temporary, interactive installations that could activate the public space and engage the community.  Over 300 submissions were accepted.  In the end, however, only ten artists were chosen to create a prototyping project.  I feel extremely honored to be one of those ten artists.

As I was learning more about this community, and visiting the neighborhoods, I saw an opportunity to enhance the sidewalks through a life-sized puzzle.  In many of these communities, the sidewalks were unfinished or altogether missing. I really wanted to construct a new sidewalk in these areas to finish the incomplete walkway, and to do so, using large-scale interlocking puzzle pieces.  My idea was that once the puzzle pieces were put together, that they would form the width of a regular sidewalk, and could measure any given length. The project could also be interactive and involve the community, which is the cornerstone of my work. 

 

Since these neighborhoods are predominately Hispanic, I also wanted to recognize the culture and heritage of living in these neighborhoods, so I decided to research Talavera tile designs and use that imagery on the front of the puzzle pieces.  Throughout the course of this project, Mesa Art Center also held a few Community Engagement Nights, where the surrounding community members came out to view the progress of our projects and interact with our work.  During some of these encounters, I asked the community members to draw their own version of a Talavera or Mexican tile design.  I then incorporated some of those designs in my final project.

 

The completed project that you see today was constructed by cutting each puzzle piece out by hand using a jigsaw.  I used MDF board that was ¼" thick and 4' x 8' long. 

When cut, the pieces are 2' x 3' long - or life-sized.  I then hand-stenciled each Talavera tile design on the front of each piece, and hand-painted and hand-outlined each one. 

Each puzzle piece is unique and individual, and will interlock into the next piece.  Mesa Art Center then held a one-day Prototyping event on November 13, 2021, to display the projects to the community.  My final goal for this project was to bring the community together, much like the inherent nature of puzzles.  To that end, I think I was successful.