Arts and Entertainment

Bellevue teacher displays his artistic talent under the streets of Mexico

Bellevue teacher Jason Schell says, “If I died tomorrow I would want people to remember this piece about me.” - Courtesy photo
Bellevue teacher Jason Schell says, “If I died tomorrow I would want people to remember this piece about me.”
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Jason Schell has made the kind of mural that whets the appetite for public art pieces. Entitled “A Sunday Afternoon Under Mexico City,” the 34-year-old Bellevue School District teacher has created a sequence of six panels displaying an interconnected snapshot of life on the Metro, meditating on what he calls, “the profound experience in everyday life.”

Don’t though, whatever you do, make the mistake of thinking public art cannot be fine art as he points out.

“The stakes are high,” he says. “I wanted to render the experience of public art pieces, with a grace and elegance which a traditionalist like me wants to see in art.  To put a mural in this city, which has such a deep history of muralism, it had to be the best piece I’ve ever made.”

It is Schell’s year and is the year in his opinion that will “certainly see a change in his artistic career.” To receive a commission from the Mexico City Metro is no simple task for a U.S. artist and when the piece goes on permanent display in August at the Viveros Metro station in Coyoacan, it will put the mural and the artist into an elite bracket of modern day muralists to be featured in the Metro lines and interconnecting stations.

From Arturo Garcia Bustos to Guillermo Ceniceros and Rafeal Cauduro, the Metro boasts some big names in the historical evolution of muralism and to be given a space alongside these artists is challenge.

“If I died tomorrow”, Schell says, “I would want people to remember this piece about me.”

Named loosely after the famous mural by Diego Rivera, “A Dream of A Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda Park,” Schell’s mural seeks to give the Metro and the real people featured in the panels, a “larger than life status,” playing with the rich visual experience of riding the Metro.  “The people featured in the mural are definitely a true reflection of the Metro users,” Schell says.

The original impetus for the piece came from Schell’s own wanderings on the Metro one Sunday afternoon.

The piece is to be housed in the Metro stop nearest to the house of Frieda Khalo and Diego Rivera in the neighborhood of Coyoacan, and this has helped shape this belief that “high quality fine art should be seen in public spaces.” As he puts it, “artistic beauty empowers people the most in a city.”

Mexico City has more museums per capita than any other city in the world, but the “concept of a gallery space is only about a hundred year’s old,” and Schell certainly challenges the needs for the art scene to “only exist with these white walls.”

Already the Metro has commissioned another piece from Schell, a smaller mural depicting the lives of the workers and engineers than keep the Metro system in operation 24 hours a day.

The piece will be on display in the Lyrica Art Space in Roma Norte (Cordoba 150, corner with Zacatecas) before it is mounted in the Metro Viveros with an opening reception from 7-10 p.m. on Aug. 15.

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