National Guardian Life Insurance Company on Tuesday unveiled Text Tiles, a massive stone mural that represents the company’s diversity statement in hieroglyphic-style tiles designed by Madison architect Michael Ford.

NGL leadership approached Ford after sponsoring his Hip Hip Architecture Camp, where he teaches principles of design and architecture to middle school youth through the lens of hip-hop music and culture.

“My idea was that hopefully people will ask, ‘what’s the story behind this art piece?’ And this will give NGL staff and leadership an opportunity to talk about that commitment, that statement,” Ford said at the unveiling event. “It was one idea to literally write the words or the statement on a piece of stone. But that doesn’t open up this dialog. The idea was to abstract it and create a piece similar to hieroglyphics. Something that makes you question, makes you look, makes you wonder.”

Each tile represents a letter in the company’s diversity, equity and inclusion statement, adopted last year, which reads, “Valuing diversity of thought, background and beliefs are key to living our cultural values of integrity, dependability, collaboration, compassion, and growth. It’s vital to our promise of helping customers face life’s challenges with confidence, dignity and grace. We strive to create an environment free of racism, discrimination, and intolerance – fostering equal opportunities and promoting belonging and inclusion.”

The most important words – what Ford refers to as “action words” – are raised from the surface and backlit with LED lighting, which can be illuminated in many colors.

Each tile represents a letter in the company’s diversity statement. Photo by Robert Chappell.

“It is just jaw dropping and beautiful and just such a great highlight to all the work that we’re dedicated to move forward, not just in the organization, but the community as well,” said Talent Development and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Partner Christin Blotz.

“This isn’t just a one time thing, this is going to be a journey, and it’ll continue to evolve and change. But we will continue to build upon that,” said Chief Culture and Communications Officer Jessica Grann. “And we’ll be reminded every day when we walk in and see this beautiful piece of art.”

“The fact that I’m here speaking to you, that’s what this piece represents,” said Tee Contreras, who works in the company’s contracting department. “The chance of every person, every background, every nationality, every different type of person, it’s very important. It represents for me as an immigrant, as a new citizen, having the chance to be here in this company and having the chance to be part of this … I think I’ve just discovered what it means for me. Which is the opportunity to be here and the opportunity to have a voice and to share my experiences and to learn from other people.”