Nurturing the Dream

Artist Susan Shelton collaborated with students and staff to create the ceramic "Nurturing the Dream" mural.

Nurturing the Dream celebrates the Student Community Center — a tangible symbol of goals set, struggles fought and dreams realized — and draws attention to the beautiful and tranquil natural setting of its north entrance.

The individual ceramic tiles reflect the multiple cultures, intersecting identities, and rich diversity of all those welcomed in the center. They also represent the various paths, goals, causes and struggles of the students: academic, social, personal and political.

The strengthening power of diversity is manifested in the assembling of the tiles to form pillars, which represent the framework around the windows of the Student Community Center and symbolize its physical structure.

The pillars also represent the "community build" aspect of the design, the conceptual and artistic participation of the students and staff of the Student Community Center, and other members of the university community, who were invited to contribute their suggestions and who participated in painting the beautiful tiles of many sizes, shapes, colors and designs that form the pillars.

The triptych view of an oak tree and plantings seen through the pillars, as if seen through a window, represent the original native landscape upon which the university was built. This is a respectful acknowledgement of its native inhabitants.

Surrounding the oak tree is a world garden. Composed of plants from all over the globe, it is a botanical celebration of diversity and unity.

Additionally, the natural imagery represents the importance of a place for reflection, nourishment of the spirit, and restoration of strength, which all can be found in nature.

To continue the work we do in our lives as students, workers, activists and caregivers, we must take time to care for ourselves and our environment.

We must nurture the dream.

About the Artist

A self-taught artist, Susan Shelton came to UC Davis in 1975 as a pre-med student, and earned her BS in Nutrition in 1981. She discovered her affinity for art during her college years, when she took a wheel-throwing class at the Silo Craft Center as a break from the rigors of academics. Upon graduation, Shelton decided to forego medical school, and instead pursue a career as an artist. Her work reflects the many influences in her life, including her cultural heritage as a native of Mexico, her love for her adopted home of California, her background in science, and her love of nature.

Her work includes pottery, sculpture, tile, ceramic murals, works cast in bronze, and a variety of landscape and public art installations. She was one of two artists commissioned by the State of California to create the Commemorative Bronze Seal for Spanish and Mexican Sovereignty, installed at the State Capitol in May of 2002. Her public art projects have included carved ceramic murals for schools, churches, parks, UC Davis, and the Agricultural Mural at theYolo County Administration Building.

Shelton is featured in the Remarkable Women exhibit at The California Museum in Sacramento, along with her bronze sculpture of Calafia. She is also the creator of the Minerva Seal, commissioned by California's First Lady Maria Shriver, as part of her Minerva Awards program.

Susan Shelton lives in Davis with her husband John Mott-Smith. Both of their daughters have careers in the sciences; one in medicine, the other in chemical engineering.

Download a guide to the imagery of Nurturing the Dream (pdf).