Skip to main content
You Can Miss It

You Can Miss It


To say that the University of New Mexico is home to artwork is nothing short of an understatement as there are plenty of pieces around campus. However, the mosaic is more “hidden” in comparison to other piece around campus. To find it, there are no secret doorways, no hidden levers nor special passwords to access it. All you do is simply walk outside the SUB and head west towards Popejoy Hall. To your right-hand side there will be a three-foot-tall cement wall that overlooks an outdoor patio with a large oak tree. That patio is where the art is hiding. Unfortunately, from your current perspective by the wall, it is impossible to see it, but if you stand down there yourself, a beautiful mosaic at least seven feet in length and awash with warm and cool colors will greet you. However, unlike other pieces of art around campus, most the student body, faculty, and guests alike pass by it and do not see it.

This mural is called “Alma Mater,” which undergrad art students made in 2016 and since then, it has grown form the wolf in the sun to include a rendition of the Duke City skyline, the Rio Grande, and even old adobe buildings. The phrase “Alma Mater” generally means a school or university that one attends in Latin as it the theme fits the setting it’s in. The phrase also means “nourishing” and “generous mother” in 17th century Latin and this is also fitting as the University is a place to nourish the mind with knowledge, so the name is rather fitting. The student made it using glazing methods taught to the student creators and annually every spring other students add more. It started out as a project by a student and former director of Apprentice Leadership of the Mosaic Arts (ALMA) on her senior year in 2016 as a way to leave a mark on the University and as a token to the community for the pride she has in it and the University. Later, other students are open to include their work as a call to artists so that they can submit their own designs into the mosaic as a way to let the rest of the community see their artwork and designs.

This mural is rather different in comparison to other murals and visual media around campus as it has managed to avoid controversy about the message of pride in the Duke City that it wants to convey. Unfortunately, the University of New Mexico is not void of the debate about works of the past. The Adams Murals in Zimmerman Library are one such art project that is facing the “fire” in the subconscious of the student body. The University Seal is undergoing some scrutiny as well as it is believed to display a more racially touchy message. However, even though the mural itself is void of tribulation, the phrase “Alma Mater” was originally the song of the University before its lyrics were changed to “the New Mexico Hymn” back in 1947. Art is sometimes made to be a message of some sort and that message is mostly in the minds of the masses, despite their controversy, and the one in Alma Mater seems to be one of unity and pride for UNM, Albuquerque, and New Mexico.

Red Hart, History, Class of 2021

Further Readings