Lowell Centennial Mosaic

Title:  Lowell Centennial Mosaic

Site: Lowell School
3320 W. Hirsch Street, Chicago

Artists: Olivia Gude and Beatriz Santiago

Assistant: Juan Angel Chávez

Community Participants: Carlos Aguila, Carlos Cordova, Gerardo Cruz, Lillian Delgado, Nicholas Espana, Filiberto Negron, Miguel Perez, Dulce M. Roman, and Lottie Steel

Sponsors:  Chicago Public Art Group and Youth Service Project

Year:  1994

Scale:  140 square feet

Materials: Glass tile

Information: Created for the Lowell School’s centennial, this series of mosaics frames the building’s doorways, greeting the children as they enter each morning.

The main entranceway is watched over by a goddess with seam foam hair, welcoming the children into the school each day. The woman whose face is a blend of the features of Indian, African, and European peoples is shaded with colors from the deep blue of the ocean to the brilliant yellow of the sun. She is a woman of sky and earth, a mother to us all.

Her shoulder becomes a garden for three houses, representing the surrounding neighborhood. Her arm holds a tree of life, bearing three fruits noted in Columbus’ journals as being part of the wonderful bounty of the new world.

The panel to the left side of the door is a parable of communication. The animals represent the different groups of children who attend the school. They can be identified with a rooster for Puerto Rico, the snake associated with the myth of the founding of Mexico, and an antelope, an animal of great significance in many African cultures.

From the mouth of each animal comes a shell-shaped “speech balloon.” This symbol was used in ancient Aztec manuscripts to show the gift of language. In the Lowell mosaic, the balloons suggest that difference which can seem weird or scary at first can often be understood and appreciated through talking things over with attention and respect.

The Lowell mosaics were created with a team of local high school students as a gift to Lowell Elementary School for its centennial. The high school students enjoyed the admiration of the younger students for their “grown up” skills.