Huehuetlatolli, Wisdom of the Elders: one of the bas relief ceramic tiles by Juana Alicia for the mural intended for the Helios senior housing on Sacramento

In 2004 Berkeley muralist Juana Alicia embarked on a commission for the Helios Corner senior housing on Sacramento and University. She completed the work in 2008, but since then the ceramic panels have languished in boxes at the housing complex because of lack of budget to install the art.

“It’s just sitting there,” Juana Alicia said. “It seems such a pity.”

After years of frustration, Alicia turned to the web-based funding platform Kickstarter to raise the $5,000 needed to install the 10 monumental ceramic panels of her work. At time of writing, 17 backers had donated $521. If the $5,000 isn’t raised by November 20, the project will fail.

The work is entitled “Huehuetlatolli: Wisdom of the Elders”, after a series of poems by the Berkeley-based poet Rafael Jesús Gonzalez. According to Alicia, “The murals honor our nature and the natural world from which we come. They portray the five elements: air, water, fire, earth and the soul, with images of elder men and women speaking to young men and women.”

The panels are large ceramics: 2 x 11 feet and 2 x 8 feet. Alicia worked with Tirso Gonzalez during her Fulbright Fellowship at a studio in Mérida, Yucatán, to create the large works.

If the funds are successfully raised, the panels will be installed on ten columns, facing both the street and an interior courtyard. They will be visible from the street.

While she works to get the Helios murals installed, Alicia is currently working on a mural project for the Centro Chicano at Stanford.

Alicia and some of the seniors living in the complex talk about the project in a video on Kickstarter:

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Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...