Get involved in community art!

Featuring Crystal Meneses, mosaic mural artist

Local artists and community-inspired artworks are coming to your new libraries! As part of the voter-approved 2020 library building bond, libraries are receiving upgrades and expansions. Local artists are creating unique installations at many of these sites that represent the community’s history, culture and diversity.

In coordination with the Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC), Multnomah County Library has been working with talented artists to create and host community engagement opportunities. 

One example of this process is at Holgate Library. The brand new two-story building will be 21,000 square feet and one of the largest libraries in Multnomah County. 

Local artist, Crystal Meneses, is working on a glass tile mosaic mural for the Exterior Site Enclosure at Holgate Library. The artwork will creatively wrap the enclosure and anchor the north entry outdoor patio, which houses secure bike parking for staff and garbage and recycling containers for the library. The collectively created artwork will act as the backdrop to ground floor flex spaces used by library staff and patrons for classes and events. 

Artist Crystal Meneses smiles at the camera

Photo credit: Alberta Akins

Crystal was born and raised in Portland, and is well known in the community as a musician. As an artist, she draws on her interdisciplinary experiences in doing arts-based therapy, teaching, working as a death doula and as a muralist. She also founded Activate Arts, a local non-profit that encourages arts activism in the community to create change. 

Crystal is interested in biomimicry, which uses elements of nature to solve human problems. Biomimicry has been Crystal’s inspiration for developing the artwork at the new Holgate Library.

“Studying biomimicry affirmed so much of the natural connections that we are and have,” says Crystal. “With this background and doing art therapy with people, I noticed that when people reconnect with nature and creativity, there's something healing that happens. When I created this process for art making, that connection is really the intention of it all.”

Artist Crystal Meneses during a workshop with a student, showing them how to create tiles

Photo credit: Theresa Bear

The mosaic mural will consist of 1,500 individual tiles, each one created by a community member. In the workshops, Crystal guides folks through the creative process, offering small tile templates that each person can design with various sizes and colors of mosaic glass pieces. 

“Part of my concepts are that I want people to know that whatever they're creating is perfect and exactly what it needed to be. I like to rub against what the values and standards are of what good art is and I think my process of making art with others is the art,” shares Crystal.

Two people sitting down showing their handmade tiles, smiling at the camera

Photo credit: Theresa Bear

Crystal is one of six artists selected to develop community-inspired art for the first  library building projects. These first projects include Holgate and Midland libraries and the new Operations Center. 

“I applied specifically for Holgate because I taught in so many schools in that area, and it's a part of Portland that I've always loved,” says Crystal. “I did a lot of growing up in those communities, and I think it's a way for me to just express gratitude.”

Crystal’s love of libraries goes back to her mom and grandmother who dedicated their lives to family literacy.

“The libraries were a rite of passage for me. I remember as a kid going to the library and having access to knowing and creativity and stories,” says Crystal. “I know that the libraries have changed a lot with how we've changed in gathering information and interacting within information, but I feel like it's still an important place for the community.”

Join Crystal in creating artwork for the Exterior Site Enclosure at Holgate Library at one of her upcoming free workshops:

Workshops are for all ages and open to everyone.