Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Art graces a public library, where all may come to enjoy the artworks freely as they use the library for a host of purposes. Being surrounded by art brings these pieces into close contact with  our everyday world. This not only adds culture to our endeavors as adults, but puts youth in regular contact with art as well. While some people may come to the Coronado Library just to tour the building, the art does not need a dedicated visit to be seen - it is part of the Library's host of services. Over the decades the Coronado Library has been given, or has acquired several notable pieces of art. These include the Donal Hord sculpture of The Mourning Woman, the Donal Hord-designed tapestry The Fruits of the Earth, the "Village Church" pastel by Alfredo Ramos Martinez,  the War Hounds watercolor by Arthur Beaumont, the "Hotel del Coronado Boathouse" by Monty Lewis, the "Wizard of Oz" glass portal, and several others. None of these is more famous or more artistically significant, however, than the murals painted by Alfredo Ramos Martinez for the La Avenida Cafe.

The 48 feet long El Dia del Mercado mural by Alfredo Ramos Martinez

The fresco mural El Dia del Mercado (Market Day) is a major work of art by one of the preeminent Mexican artists of the 20th century. Ramos Martinez spent many years studying art in Paris at the turn of the last century, in the company of artists such as Picasso, Matisse, and Braque. He then became director of the National Academy of Fine Arts in Mexico City, where he launched a national "open air" art education program that counted Diego Rivera, David Siqueiros and Rufino Tamayo among its students. He was proficient in several styles of painting but ultimately rejected these in favor of an indigenous style that reflected the rural scenes of his native Mexico.

Alfredo Ramos Martinez was commissioned to paint the fresco murals for the La Avenida Cafe in 1938. He was already 74 years old, having come to the United States seeking intensive medical care for his young daughter. Ramos Martinez painted five murals at the La Avenida Cafe in different rooms. Three of the murals survived, and the story of how two of them were saved, moved, acquired, restored, and installed at the Coronado Library is more fully  told in The Story of the Ramos Martinez Murals 

The Canasta de Flores mural

In brief, the murals were painted on plaster that were part of several walls in the restaurant. After the restaurant closed the walls were slated to be torn down. At the 11th hour the three surviving murals were removed in sections from the restaurant and ultimately separated for various reasons. The largest mural, the 48ft. long  El Dia del Mercado was first offered to the Coronado Library, but due to a lack of space to mount it, was donated to the City for future use. One large mural was sold. Years previously, the smaller mural had been wallpapered over, and was only found by accident by new La Avenida owner Gus Theberge. This mural, the still life Canasta de Flores, was also put up for sale after significant restoration by Nathan Zakheim. After securing the El Dia del Mercado mural, the Coronado Library used a bequest from June Muller to fund its extensive restoration.

As part of the Coronado Library building expansion and renovation planning, the installation of the El Dia del Mercado was given primary consideration. Separately, the Canasta de Flores mural was up for sale in Los Angeles and was on the verge of being lost to Coronado. The Friends of the Coronado Library came to the rescue and made a significant investment by buying the mural for installation in the remodelled library. The story of these combined projects can be told in the following pictures:

The Alfredo Ramos Martinez murals at the Coronado Public Library are a rich legacy of Coronado's past. They have found a permanent home thanks to the dedicated support of many people who made the current Library building possible, where they anchor many other fine works of art. 

The City of Coronado has launched a new Cultural Arts Commission. That Commission will liaison with the Coronado Library as it establishes its mission and develops its programs and activities. We look forward to more opportunities for art to flourish in Coronado, and to enrich the surroundings and programs of the Coronado Public Library.

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