Art through the Generations - . . . from teacher to students
Why Art in the Library?
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. That time-worn expression is silently evident at the Coronado Public Library, which is not only a repository of literary arts but also a little-known sanctuary of visual arts.
The first and last thing people see as they enter and exit the library aren’t bookshelves or a presentation of the latest best-sellers. On display behind the glass entry doors, behind the long check-out counter, hangs a massive painting, measuring 7 feet by 48 feet.
In "El Dia del Mercado," the great Mexican muralist Alfredo Ramos Martinez depicts farmers going to market to sell their fruits, vegetables and flowers. While broadly reflecting San Diego’s bicultural heritage, the fresco mural specifically taps into Coronado's history. For many decades it decorated the former La Avenida Café, a popular Mexican restaurant at 1301 Orange Avenue .
Christian Esquevin, director of the Coronado Public Library, writes in detail about the restaurant, Martinez and how the library came to acquire "El Dia del Mercado" and another Martinez mural entitled "Canasta de Flores." Esquevin's research paper is at
Canasta de Flores
Canasta de Flores
fresco mural by Alfredo Ramos Martinez
Christian R. Esquevin
Christian R. Esquevin
Director of Library Services
What Esquevin doesn’t answer directly in his white paper is . . . Why art in the library?
When asked, Esquevin says showcasing art became possible in 2005, when the newly expanded and renovated Coronado Public Library debuted. Behind that practical answer resides a philosophy tinged with Esquevin’s personal interest in the visual arts. He is the City of Coronado’s staff liaison to the Coronado Cultural Arts Commission, a relatively new city advisory board.
Art in public places, such as City Hall , the U.S. Post Office, parks and schools, is a way to enrich people’s lives as they go about their daily business, Esquevin says. "This library is for local children and adults and for visitors. They may be reading a book or just hanging out. They may or may not realize it until later, but they were exposed to art."
The Coronado Public Library’s extensive remodel enabled it to better display works that it already owned. For example, Donal Hord’s granite sculpture, "Mourning Woman," had previously gone unnoticed in the library’s courtyard. Now it stands at the entrance of the "Spreckels Reading Room," which features wall space for paintings, illustrations and other works. The library’s collection includes  the "Fruits of the Earth" tapestry, an oil painting of Tent City by Sue Tushingham McNary, a circa 1950 watercolor of the Coronado Boat House by Monty Lewis and a pastel scene of a village church in Mexico by Alfredo Ramos Martinez.
The Coronado Public Library decided to accept the gift of Esther Painter Hagstrom’s watercolors, prints and other works because of her ties to the community and its history. Just across the street from the library, she taught art at Coronado High School, where she influenced many local artists in their formative years. Hagstrom also had a strong impact on her many students in teaching them about the role of art in one’s life. Her paintings and prints depict scenes of Coronado, San Diego and other locations in California. "Now these works can be displayed here at the Coronado Public Library for many people to see and appreciate," Esquevin said.
"Combining art with books is reminiscent of the classical libraries on the East Coast at the turn of the century," Esquevin said, referring to the early 1900s. "We try to create that atmosphere here in the library where you can just sit and read and enjoy the presence of art."
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