Libraries mosaic tile mural project celebrates life & lore in Tucson and Southwest Arizona

Libraries mosaic tile mural project celebrates life & lore in Tucson and Southwest Arizona

April 11, 2024
"Three sisters" mosiac

"The Three Sisters"

In 2022, the University Libraries began planning a project to create a welcoming, inclusive, and eye-catching art experience for students and campus community members who visit and navigate throughout our spaces every day. 

The project featuring four 4-feet-by-5-feet mosaic tile murals was completed when the last mosaic panel was installed in the Main Library’s stairwell in March. Each mosaic tile mural enhances the stairwell landing on the second, third, fourth, and fifth floors. The artwork is also visible from the lobby on each floor.   

Local mosaic tile artist, Carlos Valenzuela, led the community collaboration of assembling the mosaics. 

Valenzuela showed the original concept sketches–which library staff voted on–to his project partner, tattoo artist Jennifer Dwyer, who made the sketches into a blueprint for the tile-laying process.

The process was incredibly labor-intensive, and many community members assisted in constructing the pieces. “We had people of every age, including elementary, high school, and University of Arizona students,” said Valenzuela.

No previous experience in creating mosaics was needed, and Valenzuela provided two weeks of training to everyone. 

“Doing these mosaics is a lot of work, but a lot of fun.”

collage of four mosaic tile murals and a photo of Carlos Valenzuela

A special thanks to our library staff who worked on this project, including: Adrian Cota, Mail & Facilities Assistant; Monica Romero, Accountant, Associate; Hasan Sanli, General Maintenance Mechanic; and Hayri Yildirim, Director, Facilities Planning & Management!

Stop by to see the mosaic tile murals during our Main Library open hours

About the mosaic tile mural themes

The Three Sisters (second floor landing)

Features the three crops–corn, beans, squash–in Indigenous agricultural traditions and practices. 

Día de los Muertos (third floor landing)

Features elements of the Día de los Muertos traditions in Tucson, including skeletons, sugar skulls, marigolds, and sweets. To identify objects in this mural and their meanings, see Loved ones honored with Día de Muertos ofrenda (altar).

Tucson Communities & Cultures (fourth floor landing)

Features images that reflect University of Arizona students, education and learning, and campus building landmarks, Tucson culture, local food, and landmarks, as well as Tohono O’odham and Pascua Yaqui mythology and history.

Desert Dwellers (fifth floor landing)

Features the landscape, animals, and plant life that create the magical Sonoran Desert environment that we live in, including a saguaro and barrel cacti, a mesquite tree and prickly pear cactus, a rattlesnake, jackrabbit, coyote, gila monster, cactus wren, and a desert horned lizard.