Pascua Yaqui Tribe (Tucson, AZ)


          Mosaic depiction of a southwestern church at night with a crescent moon above

Potam Church was created in the first year of the Pascua Yaqui Youth Mosaic Program. It depicts the main church in Potam, a Mexican Yaqui community. Photo by Ellen Kemper

Since 1997, youth from the Pascua Yaqui Tribe in Tucson, Arizona, have conceived and constructed approximately 100 ceramic tile and glass mosaic murals that celebrate the tribe’s culture, history, and tradition. The murals are the result of the Pascua Yaqui Youth Mosaic Program, which over eight weeks each summer teaches fundamental job skills through the creation of public art. For FY 2010, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe received a Challenge America grant of $10,000 to support the program. Approximately 10 young people participate each year. The session begins with a study of Yaqui history and culture as well as teachings from tribal elders. Throughout the summer, working with a professional artist, students learn a range of skills, such as sculpting, manual tile cutting, hand glazing, and tile inlay.

According to Mosaic Program Executive Director Reuben Howard, the program also emphasizes “punctuality, quality of work, good attendance, and the ability to follow directions.” Students also have access to resume writing workshops and job coaching throughout the project. The completed murals have been installed on sites both on and off the Pascua Yaqui reservation, including Guadalupe, midtown Tucson, and South Tucson. Howard noted, “The Yaqui community is directly responsible for much of the mosaic mural artwork that exists in southern Arizona today. It has made Tucson a destination point for art lovers.” Ultimately, said Howard, the entire Yaqui community benefits from the murals. “The most obvious value is community pride. The murals are highly visible reinforcements of cultural identity, history, and pride. It is a communal effort; youth and elders come together to create something positive and beautiful."


Woman with Basket was one of the first murals created through the Pascua Yaqui Youth Mosaic Program.  Photo by Ellen Kemper