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Community art exhibit examines history of maps

October 08, 2013

Maps are human artifacts; they show how we understand the world around us. They have the ability to unite memory, history, imagination and geography.

This is the core of "Mapping: Movement and Memory," a community art exhibition now open in the University Center on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus. Organized by the College of Public Programs’ “Action, Advocacy, Arts” series, the new public art exhibit showcases the work of over 50 visual artists along the busy and bustling hallways filled with students, faculty, staff and visitors.

The exhibition, which runs through Dec. 3, is displayed on the first, second and third floors of the University Center, 411 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, and features 56 works of art submitted for the exhibit in response to a community-wide call to artists.

Celebrating many views of maps and their meaning

Maps can be used to explore geographical regions, favorite places, as well as to define borders. They also act as a form of storytelling and communication, and as a way of remembering certain events or special areas.

The exhibit celebrates the history, meaning and purpose of maps.

“We invited artists of all ages to create paintings, drawings and works in mixed media that explore and celebrate maps and how they examine and define experiences, connect us through various landscapes and allow the possibility of describing journeys, either real or imagined,” says Carrie Tovar, curator of art for the College of Public Programs.

“Through this exhibit, we see the various interpretations of maps and their meanings,” Tovar says.

Showcasing a community of artists

The Downtown Phoenix venue showcases community art from working professionals alongside emerging and youth artists.

In two works, “Motherhood Around the Map, Past” and “Motherhood Around the Map, Present,” Farhana Ahmed has made motherhood and the connection to earth her focus. She has created two collages in different styles using a map created in 1450 and a map from the present day.

Artist Anel Arriola chose to represent a map of the places she has lived superimposed on a heart. She focused on these because “each place has given me an extraordinary life experience that has led me to become who I am today.“

In his work “Here We Are, Waltz,” Michael Pupillo provides an alternate view on the term “map." The piece depicts people of all ages and sizes strolling between buildings outside. Pupillo states, “I am drawn to the concept of viewing a map as a story. Every road taken, bridge crossed and river forged creates a small chronicle ... I believe that all people have an internal map of memory.”

Artists Ezri Tyler, Ryan Kershner and Adeline Kershner created a map of Greece. They chose Ancient Greece “because we love the subject and we thought it would be very interesting for others.” They are among 13 artists from Madison Simis Elementary School.

Carson Bilger, art teacher at Madison Simis Elementary School, chose to have his students participate because “Simis Elementary is an International Baccalaureate candidate school, a program which really emphasizes community involvement. 

“I thought the topic of mapmaking was intriguing ... I was excited about the venue and the amount of people that would view what they made. I could tell the students loved making their maps by how engaged they were,” Bilger says. “After visiting the show, I was impressed with the variety of pieces and the quality of the work. It was fun seeing college students studying with the maps we created as a backdrop.”

The Action, Advocacy, Arts Gallery provides community organizations and individuals the opportunity to share valuable stories through the visual arts with more than 8,000 people. "Mapping: Movement and Memory" is part of an ongoing community art program featured throughout the University Center building.

The gallery is free and open to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., daily, except for holidays. Guided tours may be arranged by contacting Carrie Tovar at For more on Action, Advocacy, Arts, visit