Student-Designed Library Murals in Corning and Los Molinos
● By Melissa Mendonca
By Melissa Mendonca
Photos by Eric Leslie
AT 30 YEARS OLD, Ryan Ramos considers himself a nontraditional college student. While his passion for art has been around since he started taking classes at Corning High School, the studio arts major took a circuitous route to Chico State University.
As he puts the last coats of paint on a new library mural in his hometown, however, it appears his timing is impeccable. Coinciding with Ramos’ matriculation into Professor J Pouwel’s public art murals class is the commitment of a group of Chico State faculty to strengthen connections to the service area of the college by not only bringing in students from rural areas, but providing opportunities for them to return home.
“We’re interested in partnerships,” says Ann Schulte, a professor in the School of Education and Faculty Fellow for Rural Partnerships.
The story of Ryan Ramos and Pouwel’s class, then, is one of a win for two years of collaboration and commitment to the cause. Pouwel, a mentor to Ramos, is also a faculty fellow for Rural Partnerships and has been developing his mural class since the creation of the partnership.
The results are a series of student-designed murals around Chico, Los Molinos, Oroville and Corning, each teaching project development and implementation. And in the case of Ryan Ramos, it was bringing his skills first learned in Corning and honed at Chico State University back to his hometown.
“It’s what I learned in high school that really got me motivated,” says Ramos, who still lives in Corning. “I was able to take art all four years with the same teacher and I was able to take art history. We took a lot of field trips. We went to the Modern Art Museum.”
Now, Ramos gets to give back to the community he loves so much. His mural design for the Corning City Library was accepted by the Corning City Council and has been created on an exterior wall of the building. “It’s where we do our summer reading program outside,” says Todd Deck, Tehama County Librarian. “The mural is a great opportunity to get some attention to that area.”
Although Ramos has lived in Corning most of his life, he says the mural project helped him develop new eyes for his community. “I observed the town more than I usually would have,” he says. “I drove around a lot.” The result is a bright and vivid representation of what he sees.
“The images that are included are really common,” he says. “You see a lot of tractors and trees.” In choosing to represent a farmworker as well, he is paying homage to an often-excluded figure in agriculture. “I think a lot of times, the people who work out in the fields aren’t as represented in the community as far as olives are concerned,” he adds. “I wanted to represent that.”
A team of Ramos’ classmates developed a mural for the interior of the Los Molinos Library. While the chosen design was developed by a Chico State student from the Bay Area, it was created after students toured the community and interviewed Los Molinos students who will be using the facility. “They came on a Sunday at 2 pm and they finished around midnight that same evening,” said Deck, clearly impressed by the student artists. “That was the first mural completed by the class and it was the first class of its kind at the university.”
Funding of paint and supplies came from the Friends of the Library organizations in both communities. “They instantly said yes,” says Deck. “We really did get paint on the wall in a matter of weeks.”
A third mural is being developed at Nu-Way Market in Los Molinos, thanks to networking support by Alison Wylie, a project manager for the Center for Healthy Communities at Chico State University and a Tehama County resident.
For Deck, the opportunity to have the murals created in Los Molinos and Corning was a way to extend some love back to these small communities that remained very patient while time and resources were poured into a new library in Red Bluff the last few years. “I really wanted to give Corning and Los Molinos some attention and some revitalization,” he says.
The murals, designed to last for decades, are a bright expression of hope to the communities in which they were created and a symbol of success and persistence to the many involved in their development. Deck couldn’t be more pleased by the collaborations that took place to brighten his spaces. “Libraries really are about celebrating creativity, curiosity and learning so this was exciting.” •
Corning Library • 740 3rd St., Corning
Los Molinos Library • 7881 State Highway 99E, Los Molinos