Art in the Supermarkets / by Jeannine Cook

I read of a wonderful, imaginative initiative for handicapped people to create art for supermarkets in Valencia and Palma de Mallorca, Spain. I think it is an example that bears copying, no matter where.

This was a report written by L.R. in the Diario de Mallorca on 19th February about about 200 people with learning disabilities who are creating a special Catalan form of mosaics (trencadis) for murals for the different branches of the supermarket chain, Mercadona. The idea was first put forward in Valencia by someone involved with polishing ceramic tiles: there are inevitably broken tiles and these have traditionally formed the basis of trencadis. The most famous exponent of the use of the irregular tile bits, set in mortar, was Antoni Gaudi. He began to use the brightly coloured, broken pieces of tile in his adornment of architectural elements in Barcelona's hillside garden, Parc Guell at the beginning of the 20th century.

This is part of a dragon at the entrance to the Parc, done in these broken ceramic pieces. Beyond, all over the Parc, there are wonderful combinations of brilliantly coloured tiles juxta-posed in joyous - often sinuous - configurations. One of the advantages of this trencadis form of ceramics is that the surfaces can indeed curve, something much more difficult with regular whole ceramic tiles.

Below, these are two other images of Gaudi's use of trencadis in Parc Guell, Barcelona.


Various non-profit organisations involved with caring for people with Down's Syndrome or other learning disabilities got involved in the Mercadona supermarket murals venture. The first mural was done for the fish section in one of Mercadona's supermarkets in Valencia. It was so well received that the meat sections were soon chosen as the next destinations for murals. From there, the idea has snowballed and many more people are involved in the creation of these murals.

Understandably, when they first learn they will be creating a mural some 5 meters long, the participants are somewhat daunted. But they are first taught to sort the ceramic shards by colour. Then comes the assembly of parts according to a design, and as the pieces are placed together on a flat surface, a mesh is then placed over them to secure them. Eventually everything is united in the overall design and mortared into place. In the execution of these murals, there have been many benefits for the participants. They are gainfully employed and taught a new skill, which involves concentration, coordination and application. At the end of the venture, the participants are able to see tangible results which give people pleasure and interest... and they have achieved something they thought initially that they could not do.

To me, it seems the most wonderful alliance of art and skills to enhance the buying experience for everyone in a supermarket, while uplifting and reaffirming the spirit of those who don't always have such opportunities. Good for Mercadona and all those involved in the trencadis murals!