The El Paso Museum of Art Foundation (EPMAF), in partnership with the Paso del Norte Community Foundation (PdNCF), has broken ground on Star Ceiling, a $5.5 million art installation by El Paso-raised artist Leo Villareal.
Mr. Villareal was commissioned by the EPMAF to design a permanent work in the city’s Arts Festival Plaza, in front of the El Paso Museum of Art and across the street from the Paso del Norte Hotel. The site-specific installation makes use of pillars that are already in place in the plaza and will consist of a suspended LED array, benches carved out of local stone, and planters with flora indigenous to the Chihuahuan Desert. The 120-foot LED array will be activated in non-repeating abstract patterns, creating a unique experience for each visitor.
In a press release, Mr. Villareal remarked, “Having grown up in El Paso and Juarez, I have many fond memories of observing the night sky over the desert, and the vast expanse of city lights arrayed across the landscape. Star Ceiling encapsulates many of these influences… My hope is to create a greater sense of connection and community as the people of El Paso gather underneath this canopy of light.”
Tracy J. Yellen, CEO of the PdNCF, added, “Star Ceiling will be a great addition to the downtown landscape – a free and accessible gathering space designed to encourage connection, communication and community for residents and visitors to the region. We are grateful for the EPMAF and donors for their vision and generosity.”
The project has been several years in the making, even since the City of El Paso approved the installation in November 2021. The privately funded project will be under construction through the early fall of 2024. Jordan Foster Construction and inSitu Architecture are working on bringing the artwork to life. When it is completed, Star Ceiling will be gifted to the city. PdNCF has set aside funds for the future maintenance of the installation.
Following the groundbreaking ceremony, which took place on Thursday, January 18, the El Paso Museum of Art opened a small informational gallery to inform its visitors about Star Ceiling. The space includes renderings, 3D models, artist information, and an interactive area where visitors can make their own star-shaped artwork. The preview exhibition will be on view through January 2025.