Cultural Affairs Office

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City of Houston Announces New Art Installation at Central Library's Barbara Bush Literacy Plaza

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Dr. Rhea Lawson, Director of HPL, Marsha Dorsey-Outlaw, artist, and Mayor Sylvester Turner of Houston, pose in front of Dorsey-Outlaw’s mosaic work. Photo by Alex Barber.

May 11, 2022 -- The Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs (MOCA) announced today the completion of a new commission of mosaic artworks located in the Barbara Bush Literacy Plaza at the Jesse H. Jones Central Library.

The concept for the artwork was created and developed by native Houstonian Marsha Dorsey-Outlaw, who designed, fabricated, and installed eight mosaic panels bordering the children’s area in the plaza following its debut in September 2021. This welcoming space, designed by Lauren Griffith Associates, extends the Houston Public Library’s (HPL) mission of creating experiences beyond its physical walls and into the outdoors.

“The Barbara Bush Literacy Plaza was redesigned to honor the first lady’s legacy of championing the cause of literacy and her commitment to breaking the intergenerational cycle of low literacy in America,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “It is fitting that we look to art to illuminate Mrs. Bush’s vision for literate youth in America. Ms. Dorsey-Outlaw’s work will do just that by empowering the cause for literacy while welcoming visitors to the Central Library.”

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The mosaic panel featuring a quote from Barbara Bush rendered in her own handwriting, “I read it from cover to cover.” Photo by Alex Barber.

The mosaic installation, the second commission for the City from Dorsey-Outlaw, took inspiration from the imaginative experience of reading. With input from representatives from HPL, the artist incorporated quotes from many recognizable and beloved children’s books, including a quote from Barbara Bush rendered in her handwriting, “I read it from cover to cover.”

“For my family, books have rendered countless moments of liberation through knowledge, the refinement of skill or escaping into the fantastic. Oral traditions bind us through our dreams, humor, and curiosities, thus making up our shared humanity. This project amplifies the imagination ignited by the power of stories.” said Dorsey-Outlaw of her work. 

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Marsha Dorsey-Outlaw and her mosaic work. Photo by Alex Barber.

Marsha Dorsey-Outlaw is a mixed media visual artist whose creative practice emphasizes social practice and education. As part of the Texas Commission for the Arts Artist in Education Roster, Marsha Dorsey-Outlaw has enjoyed extended residencies at The Community Artists’ Collective and the Austin Children’s Museum. She was the first artist-in-residence and community liaison in the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Education Department. Marsha is also a certified enrichment instructor for many school districts with the Harris County Department of Education and is a member of Young Audiences of Houston. She facilitates school residencies from Harris to Matagorda County.

The mosaic installation is now a permanent artwork in the City of Houston’s Civic Art Collection, whose artworks can be found in over 100 of the City of Houston’s public facilities, airports, and parks and are enjoyed by more than 64 million Houstonians and visitors each year.

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The new Barbara Bush Literacy Plaza with mosaic works done by Marsha Dorsey-Outlaw. Photo by Alex Barber.

The project for the Barbara Bush Literacy Plaza was administered by the Houston Arts Alliance (HAA) Civic Art + Design team in partnership with MOCA to enhance Houston’s visual landscape through the City of Houston Civic Art Program.

A selection panel of City department, community, and art world representatives was assembled by Houston Arts Alliance to review recommended concepts for this project. Panelists included Lauren Griffith of Lauren Griffith Associates, mosaic artist Dixie Friend Gay, Algenita Davis, the Government and Community Affairs Officers at the Downtown District, Jaime Herrero, attorney and Executive Director at Urban Partnerships Community Development, and Houston Public Library representative Raiset Ruben Valiente.

About the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs 
 The City of Houston Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs guides the City’s cultural investments with policies and initiatives that expand access to arts and cultural programs, attract visitors and leverage private investment. Learn more at and follow us on Facebook & Instagram @HoustonMOCA.