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Thursday, August 11, 2022

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A Feast for the Eyes

Student murals pay homage to a rich Aztec history and the Arts Alive SDSU initiative.
By Coleen L. Geraghty

This story appears in the spring 2016 issue of 360: The Magazine of San Diego State University. 

When Stephan Romero recalls his student days at San Diego State University, he’ll remember, above all, a blank white wall in Love Library.

No longer anonymous, that wall has been transformed—by Romero and fellow students—into a chromatic spectacle of Aztec symbolism with roots in SDSU’s muralist culture.

The students’ work is part of a lively conversation about art on campus, embracing not only the visual arts, but also music, dance, theatre, poetry and creative writing.

Through a new initiative, Arts Alive SDSU, faculty and students are integrating art events and art practices into the broader curriculum to heighten awareness of SDSU’s rich artistic community.

Aztec calendar

The story of the “Circle of Knowledge” mural, co-sponsored by Arts Alive SDSU and the Library and Information Access, is one of collaboration across disciplines. Gale Etschmaier, library dean, commissioned two art classes to design and paint a wall mural at the former entrance to Love Library.

Art professors Carlos Castro and Eva Struble jointly guided their classes through the process, beginning with the idea of creating a traditional Aztec calendar embedded with modern designs.

“We decided to do a new version of the calendar, which allowed space for the students to reflect on the Aztec theme as part of their lives and identities,” Castro said.

A cultural history

Love Library serves as home to another Aztec-inspired mural created by SDSU students in 1976 for Arturo Anselmo Roman’s Chicano art class.

The “Rock ‘n’ Roll Mural,” also known as the Backdoor Mural, was preserved, restored and moved to the third floor of Love Library from its original location outside SDSU’s Backdoor music club in the former Aztec Center.
"The murals play an important role in the library,” Etschmaier said. “They preserve the cultural history of our institution and connect the students of today with those of the past and the future.”

Pop-up concerts

The library has also been one of many sites for “pop-up” concerts, featuring student musicians and dancers in brief, between-class performances that anchor the arts right in the center of campus. These concerts are an element of Arts Alive SDSU, which evolved from the university’s strategic goal to “promote visibility of the arts.”
Arts Alive SDSU sponsors more than 350 events annually, including evening concerts, films, and theatre and dance performances. For more information, visit the Arts Alive SDSU website