Talon News - Good Local News

By Pilar Owens



September 14, 2018


by Pilar Owens, TALON

Hidden near Aztec Main Street Plaza is a mural with a little known history.

Over a decade ago, professional artist Rebecca Gale offered to help women at a Denver shelter. They made art together. Gale said "...as they were creating their art I found (the women) were also talking about their trauma, and I realized there was a link between the two; that creating art could help like free up some of the emotions and stuff that were trapped inside." This inspired Gale to return to college and become a licensed clinical social worker. She and her husband wanted to be closer to their daughters and grandson in Albuquerque, so she looked for work in the area. In January 2018, Totah Behavioral Health Authority (Totah Behavioral) in Farmington hired her. Soon after, Thomas Gray contacted her.

Gray, formerly of Durango Colorado, was training with 25 others in a group called Tiospaye. "In the Dakota language, Tiospaye means, 'The Making of Relatives,' a concept that lies at the heart of their profound training," says their website, makingrelatives.org. As part of their training, Gray and his group did the Vision Project. They asked people, "What's your vision?" One place they did their survey was at the Animas Valley Mall. Gray's group chose to show people's answers with public art in Durango, Cortez, Ignacio, and Aztec.

So Gray walked Aztec Main Street hoping to find a local artist to work on the Vision Project in Aztec. He visited Feat of Clay. The wife of the artist there referred him to Gale.

Gale felt excited about the project, "...also I felt like it was a way to tie people who are marginalized in the community, back into the community, and give them a sense of pride and a sense of belonging, because the people we serve here (at Totah Behavioral) have been marginalized..." Totah Behavioral offers healing, education, and help to people struggling with substance abuse. Gale enlisted the help of three people in Totah's program.

They took about five hours to paint the mural on a warm day in late winter. Gray said it "felt like a community event," and while there were lots of different people, it was "pretty seamless."

Gale remembered her group's reaction to the project. "They loved it...I think they felt maybe a little bit uncomfortable when all the other people starting showing up, but the other people (Tiospaye) were very accepting and very welcoming of them, and so everything sort of jelled, you know? And when we were done they were super super proud of the finished product, so that was awesome."

The mural's mountains stand for the sacred mountains of the Navajo people: Mt. Hesperus, Mt. Humphrey, Mt. Blanca, Mt. Taylor. Each mountain is linked to a color, hence the black, yellow, white, and blue circles. A tree of life grows in the middle.

"And so it's kind of like, even though we're here in the Four Corners area it's like can't we just blend everybody together and all just kinda be one people united," said Gale, "relatives if you will."


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