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Tile Mural depicts a community as well as Lake Tahoe

Sally J. Taylor

Like the people who created them, the community tiles on the El Dorado Beach Tile Mural are a conglomeration of various styles and various subjects that, somehow, fit together into a unified whole.

Kind of like a community.

The 26-foot-long by 4-foot-tall tile mural, the sixth Heritage Mural of Lake Tahoe, was dedicated on Saturday.

Julie La Croix, an art instructor at Sierra Nevada College in Incline Village, created from tiles the central skyline panorama of Lake Tahoe. The foundation tiles were created by more than 250 residents who participated in May in tile painting workshops, at $5 per tile. As they painted, they shared paints and talked about designs.

“The biggest thing I noticed (during the workshops) is that people who did not know each other, soon did,” said city Arts Coordinator Phylise Walker.

Each tile tells a story. Many are memorials including a grouping of four tiles in honor of Patrick Bennet who conceived the idea of a community mural at the beach before he died earlier this year. Bennet was member of the city Parks and Recreation Commission as well as involved in many community activities.

“Patrick inspired this piece of art and we, the community, created it,” said Greta Hambsch, steering committee chair for the mural project, said during the dedication ceremony.

“Each tile tells a little bit about the person who created it.”

Nicholas Herrera, 7, painted a tile of his favorite things: a dinosaur and his family including a baby not yet born and his sister, Danielle as an angel in the sky. Danielle died two-and-a-half-years ago, at the age of 16 months, from health problems due to a heart defect.

For the Herreras, the publicly displayed tiles are a remembrance for Danielle, explained Nicholas’ mom, April Herrera.

“We try to include Danielle in everything we do,” she said. “Even though she’s not here, she’s in our hearts.”

A dozen tiles, painted by members of a South Lake Tahoe Little League team, are a remembrance of a different kind.

Following a Saturday game, Launa Craig, the official score keeper for the 1997 Royals, which were coached by Bill Martinez, brought the whole team to paint tiles.

“They weren’t a winning team in terms of winning games but by winning in spirit,” she said. “They had a lot of spirit.”

Other people painted tiles that depicted what Lake Tahoe meant to them.

“Tahoe to me is hiking with my dog,” said Kim Stephenson, a teacher at South Tahoe Middle School. She dedicated her tile to Tessa, a shepherd/rottweiler mix she got from the Humane Society.

“You live in Tahoe and want to be a part of it,” she said. “It’s kind of neat to be a part of something that will last a long time.”

La Croix specifically selected ceramic techniques “to stand the test of our weather and the test of time,” Hambsch said.

The Heritage Mural Project is cosponsored by the city Arts Commission, the South Lake Tahoe Historical Society and the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce. The tile mural was partially funded by the Nevada State Council on the Arts and numerous donations from members of the community.


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