2020 Viola Award Finalist for Excellence in Placemaking

Sonja London-Hall has been a long time supporter of art and the effect art has on us all. To make is often to inspire and London-Hall is gifted that category. She is inspirational in her dedication and desire to reach out to people with her work. As a full time music teacher at NPA she inspires students to be their musical best. Art in the community takes the form of gallery installations, exhibit, and now in the case of Joel Montalvo Park, public works.

The installation at Joe Garagiola baseball field is in the heart of the Sunnyside community. The mosaic installed at the park represents family and fun that we have all shared at one point or another watching kids play ball. Sonja spent 11 weeks on a daily basis interacting with community members, sharing stories, and putting her heart and soul into the mosaic that now stands tribute.

Stories on the wall has been a topic of conversation. There were many instances of shared vision and hope as Sonja worked. The retired vet turned pottery artist, the young 20 something asking how to apply for a job like this, and the in between jobs painter looking for work; all these stopped to share their stories and ask questions. In all instances Sonja offered support, creatives leads, and energy towards reaching goals. Lots of questions about the application process and calls to public art were shared with many passers-by who were encouraged to look deeper into exposure for their own craft. These examples above all others demonstrate how art and creative endeavors spread throughout a community.

Before the project began and before the application was turned in, Sonja stood at the wall, (AKA former fire station at Joel Montalvo Park) and measured the temperature variance between shade and sun; morning and night, and after a freeze. This was in December of 2018. The starting point before ordering materials was science based and a study in temperature extremes. Questions were asked of many professionals like: what type of underlayment would be required for a 40 degree temperature variance on the wall during a day? What type of tile withstands freeze thaw cycles? Does grout need to be latex based? Aside from the science of weather, the subsequent math and necessary geometry to determine amounts of tile per color for the space was a huge component for planning. These stories were readily shared to the many neighbors in the area that simply stopped by and watched the process. The routine of visitors and daily work on the wall were inspiring to both the artist and the park routine.

The wall design was based on Talavera pottery which is known by its rich colors and cultural heritage. The use of this style was deliberate and chosen for the community. The style of art was also shared with the local schools in the form of lesson materials. Teachers were invited to participate with art from their students.

Talavera style has been on the decline as a pottery style after the Mexican War of Independence. As an art form, its making has only recently seen a resurgence in the craft. In collaborating with the schools and their art teachers, a unit of study with background in this important style of art was a very important component. Student art on the side panels of the wall demonstrate inspired designs made by youth from Northland Preparatory Academy, Killip Elementary, and Sinagua Middle School.

Many community members in the final days of the wall completion came by and thanked the artist; mostly for putting nice art in their neighborhood and not just saving the nice stuff for the West end of town.