Writing on the Walls

Two ceramic murals at Tiverton Public Library celebrate reading and community

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You can easily lose yourself in Trees of Tiverton, a new mural at the Tiverton Public Library. You stand in a sunny room, examining this mosaicked landscape of a forest at night. You observe the tiny ceramic pieces, which fit meticulously together into a colorful whole. You admire the 26 trees, then notice that the “tree bark” is composed of 2,000 human faces – self-portraits sculpted by actual locals. The mural is dense with codes and messages, enough to warrant an official scavenger hunt.

Then you glance at your watch and realize that ten minutes have passed. It’s just that mesmerizing.

The Tiverton Library commissioned two such murals, created by ceramic artists Mika Seeger and Peter Geisser. The murals were revealed at a ceremony in June: Trees of Tiverton, which faces the main circulation desk, and Tiverton Alphabet, a dreamy parade of letters, images, Braille dots, and hyper-local references.

Mika and Peter are prolific, and their public art projects can be spotted all around Rhode Island, including installations at Hasbro Children’s Hospital, India Point Park playground, and the Rhode Island Youth Development Facility in Cranston. In the late 1990s, Mika created a similar mural in the old Essex Library. But five years ago, the Tiverton Library was under construction – replacing the Essex location – and builders decided that the older mural was too difficult to move. Instead, the Tiverton Library Foundation requested two new works.

“They wanted to bring the old into the new,” says Catherine Damiani, director of the Tiverton Library. Mika and Peter hosted a series of art classes, and thousands of pieces were sculpted by everyday Tiverton residents and fired in Mika’s kiln. “At the ceremony, the youngest person in attendance put in the last piece for Tiverton Alphabet,” adds Catherine, “and the oldest person put in the last piece for Trees of Tiverton.”

The Tiverton Library is the newest branch in the Ocean State Libraries system, and it shows: The structure is a sprawling white building with an arched entryway and clock tower; every inch is spotless. Rows of trees hide the structure from the main road. Tucked into such a bucolic setting, these murals look right at home.