Arts Open the Door to a New Culture

Kosuke Fukuda, Staff

The Witter Gallery, which celebrated its 50th anniversary this year (1972-2022), hosted another exciting event this month.  

Traditional Mexican mosaic mural artists were invited to Witter Gallery (609 Cayuga Street at Storm Lake Public Library) from September 6-10, for a week of demonstrations of their artwork. Mary Carmen Olvera Trejo, one of a team from Zacatlan, Mexico, a town about 100 miles east of Mexico City, made the trip to Storm Lake. Storm Lake High School and Buena Vista University also welcomed her to art classes and to meet students. 

Kosuke Fukuda

Trejo and other art friends have spent the past eight years decorating the walls of their hometown of Zacatlan, Mexico, with mosaic art, completely transforming the small city into a thriving tourist destination. 

Because Trejo did not speak English, Patricia Hampton, Witter Gallery Board Chair, served as the spokesperson for the project. How did the project come about? “That’s a little funny story,” said Hampton. “I met completely by accident.”  

Hampton first became aware of Zacatlan’s mosaic artists when she met a man named Dick Davis, who has been supporting Zacatlan’s mosaic art for over a decade. He was transporting some artworks from his home in California to Chicago, where his art gallery is located. On his way to Chicago, he stopped in Storm Lake to run an errand and met Hampton in the parking lot outside the Storm Lake Public Library. They struck up a conversation during which Hampton learned about Zacatlan’s mosaic arts. She got the artists email addresses, including Trejo’s, which led to this invitation.  

After meeting Dick Davis at the end of May, Hampton’s actions to invite the artists were quick. She began exchanging emails with the artists in June and kept in touch a lot. During that exchange, Hampton sent them a photo of a beautiful object at Storm Lake, and the artists created a mosaic of it. The artwork was presented in a demonstration and is still displayed in the gallery. The artists made the pieces for two weeks before coming to Storm Lake and brought them all the way from Mexico in a carry-on case.  

Kosuke Fukuda

Hampton said she was lucky to communicate with the artists via email this time. She said, “It was very helpful because I speak some Spanish but am not fluent. I was able to translate her messages.”  

Witter Gallery hosts such special events every month. A volunteer at the gallery said, “It is very interesting to experience and learn about a different culture through art.”  

“Public art can be important for capturing the culture, as well as helping to build a community,” Hampton said. “And I would hope that everyone is aware of that. And one day, I hope they enjoy the arts in a public setting.”