The Practice of Freedom

Malaquias Montoya’s mural The Practice of Freedom, welcomes students and visitors at the south entrance to the Student Community Center.

"There is no such thing as a neutral educational process. Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate the integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity to it, or it becomes ‘the practice of freedom,’ the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with the reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.” — Richard Shaull (1919-2002)

Central to and anchoring this mural, which represents our diverse and rich population, is a tribute to the indigenous past of this region. Protected from disturbance by a maguey plant, a rooting life source that expresses the strength and struggle of the people, these departed figures each hold an inextinguishable flame that illuminates and nourishes us all.

The quilt cradled in the left hand represents the richness of cultures and the diverse people that the university reaches out to and receives. It is made up of a kaleidoscope of colors and fabrics held together by unifying threads that flow through the entire mural.

On the right side of the quilt are a cityscape and a ruralscape defining the varied regions from which we draw our students. The quilt becomes the landscape that represents the agricultural background of our university. Within these fields, two students embrace, representing the friendships, caring and support necessary to complete one's educational journey and graduate. Behind these two students is an image of the Student Community Center, where camaraderie, integrity and learning take place.

A computer, representative of our technological age, and the open book, a more traditional symbol of knowledge and education, are fundamental to the educational journey. Behind these you see students studying, learning, relaxing and sharing the university environment. As you move to the right, supported by the hand, the students are at the culmination of this experience, graduating and celebrating, as their graduation caps fly into the air and become the universal doves of peace.

The students are moving forward into the future, grasping banners that signify the struggles they will encounter and are determined to make a difference. Doves in flight, representing peace and justice, guide them as the banners become one and flow freely like a river through the hand, offering the vision of being whole and undivided as the doves are released into the world.

About the Artist

Malaquias Montoya was raised in a family of seven children whose parents could not read or write either Spanish or English. The three oldest children never went beyond a seventh-grade education because the entire family had to work as farmworkers to survive.

Montoya's father and mother divorced in 1952, and his mother supported the four children remaining at home through work in the fields so they could pursue an education.

Professor Montoya's objective is to educate and be educated by those persons with whom he comes in daily contact. As an artist his purpose is to express the importance of developing the innate quality characteristic of us all: creativity, and to show the relationship between artistic creativity and community action, as both an educational tool and a catalyst for social change.

Montoya is cooperating faculty in the Department of Art and professor in the Chicana/o Studies Program. He previously taught at the California College of Arts and Crafts. A graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, he has been an artist-in-residence at Stanford University, a visiting lecturer at Mills College, Oakland, Calif., and a visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Montoya has also taught at various community colleges throughout the San Francsico Bay Area.

He has been invited to exhibit his art here and in Europe and Latin America, and his prints, posters, drawings, paintings and murals provide a standard of excellence for students as well as established artists for those who aspire to humanistic goals in the expression of their art. Malaquias Montoya has chosen not to participate in the world of commerical galleries. A man of great political and artistic principles, he believes that art should be directed to the broadest possible audience, including those who do not frequent commercial galleries. Montoya has elected to make the world his art gallery. In so doing, he is following a long tradition of cultural theoreticians who have deconstructed the negative social and cultural dimensions of artistic theories opposed to popular diffusion of the arts. There is no ambiguity in Montoya's works, as the art form is used to convey the artist's political message as well as his human concerns. His words are art and his art is poetry. The combination of powerful graphic images and human figures with issues of concern of humanity is perhaps his greatest artistic contribution.

Professor Montoya has received many honors, the latest being the 1997 Adaline Kent Award from the San Francisco Art Institute and the Art As a Hammer Honor from the Center for the Study of Political Graphics, Los Angeles, 1997.