It’s unlikely you’ll ever see Bernadette Torres without a flower in her hair. But now, if you drive by a pair of billboards on Southwest Boulevard, you’ll discover a self-portrait of the Metropolitan Community College art instructor with bouquets of flowers in her hair and seemingly flying out of it.
Torres, also director of MCC-Penn Valley’s Carter Art Center gallery, learned she’d been selected as a featured artist for the boards in December 2017. “I am very excited that after a full year, it is finally installed,” she says. “It is the largest piece of artwork of mine to date.”
The billboards are officially known as Mobank Artboards, and they’ve been a fixture in the Crossroads since 2008. Each piece commissioned for the public art program gets prime space on the side-by-side boards above the bank at 125 Southwest Blvd.
Torres calls her artwork “Blooming Enchantment,” and it’s actually a combination of images: The flowers on the left billboard originated as ceramic floral sculptures, and the self-portrait at right was created as a 5-by-5-inch glazed ceramic tile.
The billboards are double-sided, so two pieces at a time are spotlighted. Work by artist Jessica Kincaid, like Torres an alumna of the Kansas City Art Institute, appears on the other side. The two pieces will be up from December through February.
When it comes to her students, “I try to lead by example,” says Torres, who joined MCC in 2003. Even after a long day at work, she gets into the studio to make art.
She says many of her former students are now working artists, K-12 or college art instructors, or ceramic art teachers in community art studios. “After many years of teaching, my past students are sending their young art students to study with me at MCC-Penn Valley,” she says.
The Artboards program is administered by the Charlotte Street Foundation with Mobank and Outfront Media. When Mobank purchased and renovated the Crossroads location, it donated the billboards as a way to share local art. Artists are selected by Charlotte Street in collaboration with Mobank.
Artboards artists are chosen through a competitive process and receive $1,000 each for completing and delivering print-ready images for the side-by-side billboards. Visit charlottestreet.org/awards/mobank-artboards to learn more about the selection process.
A piece called “Dino Fear” by MCC-Blue River art instructor DeAnna Skedel and her then 8-year-old daughter was featured on the Artboards in 2015.