By Steven Adamo
Art, science and philosophy are woven through history in the mural titled “Education Suite: Arte, Ciencia, y Filosofia” located inside the Helen Miller Bailey Library.
Erika Montenegro, instruction librarian at the Helen Miller Bailey Library, put together a research guide last month on the ELAC website out of demand for information about the mural from students and professors.
Montenegro teaches a library science class and uses the mural to teach research methods. “I would have students research a piece or individual image, and they have to interpret what it means,” Montenegro said. “The whole point is using ELAC resources and article databases to find sources.”
In 2012, the library held its grand reopening after completing its renovation. The mural, which was painted on canvas in panels and later installed, remained in the stairwell while the fixtures were updated and a skylight was installed.
“The mural is about education, but ‘suite’ is also a musical term referring to a set of movements in music,” Montenegro said. “Thinking of education as a movement toward enlightenment through art, science and philosophy.”
From the bottom of the stairs to the second floor, the mural begins by telling a story of art. From Edward James Olmos’ character in Luis Valdez’ “Zoot Suit” to spiraling piano keys above a series of Pablo Picasso heads, there’s a lot of information contained in these painted images.
One of Montenegro’s favorite parts of the mural is its reference to the opening scene of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” inside the film strip. “What I like about it is that they use it to weave the narrative from the first panel to the second panel,” Montenegro said.
The second panel focuses on science, but has a touch of science fiction. The space shuttle can be seen flying above a giant satellite dish. A smaller satellite can be seen orbiting a planet where a giant nude woman stands.
On the right wall, the subject matter turns to philosophy, which is demonstrated by Martin Luther King Jr. conversing with Emiliano Zapata. “I think it’s supposed to represent the differences in revolutionary tactics,” Montenegro said, as she described the different mannerisms of the two men.
Above the images of King Jr. and Zapata, a home setting is painted containing framed images of John Lennon and John F. Kennedy with ELAC’s own Helen Miller Bailey, former ELAC teacher, in the middle.
The last image at the top of the stairs is of the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland standing near a backwards exit sign. The painting opens up to reveal the other side of the wall – which is a view of the front of the ELAC campus as it was in 1981.
This mural was completed in 1981 by the East Los Streetscrapers— an artist collective consisting of, at the time of the mural, Wayne Healy, George Yepes and David Botello, with the assistance of David Morin.
Healy and Botello founded the Los Dos Streetscrapers in 1977, but changed the name to the East Los Streetscrapers after collaborating with artists like Yepes. The Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles’ website says that Healy and Botello first collaborated in the third grade when the pair painted a mural about dinosaurs.
The “Education Suite” mural can be seen inside the stairwell at the Helen Miller Bailey Library Monday through Sunday at certain hours. For more information about the mural, visit http://researchguides.elac.edu/librarymural.