Art-Making Activity: Writing in Relief

Enrique Alférez, Symbols of Communication, 1967. Gift of Joseph Jaeger, Barry Kern, Michael White, and Arnold Kirschman, 2020.7.1-.118. © Estate of Enrique Alférez.

Enrique Alférez (1901–99) was a Mexican artist who lived and worked in New Orleans and whose artistry is admired worldwide. Symbols of Communication is a large-scale, bas-relief mural sculpted by Alférez that was originally created for the New Orleans Times-Picayune Building in 1967, then acquired by NOMA in 2020. The mural celebrates the diversity of human culture and our shared desire to tell stories, communicate, and connect with one another through language and symbols.

Design your own symbol like a letter, number, or shape in this relief sculpture activity. In sculpture, 3D elements that stick out from a supporting background are called relief. You can spot examples of relief sculpture at NOMA in artworks like Symbols of Communication by Enrique Alférez, and even in decorative elements of NOMA’s architecture!


  • Cardboard (a rectangular base and smaller pieces to cut into shapes)
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Colored and/or patterned paper
  • Other recyclable materials to re-use creatively, such as bottle caps, bubble wrap, or food packaging

1 – Sketch out your own symbol onto the cardboard base. Choose a symbol like a letter, number, or shape, or invent your own!

2 – Prepare your materials: cut cardboard and paper into shapes and arrange materials on your work table to test out different designs.
3 – Create a low relief sculpture on the cardboard base by gluing cardboard and paper shapes and other recyclable materials.
4 – Stack materials to create layers of cardboard, paper, and recyclable materials, building up your relief sculpture.  Some areas may rise higher from the surface than others!



Once you’ve finished, browse more family-friendly art-making activities.

NOMA is committed to uniting, inspiring, and engaging diverse communities and cultures through the arts — now more than ever. Your gift will make a direct and immediate impact as NOMA welcomes our community back to the museum and sculpture garden, plans new exhibitions, and develops virtual and at-home arts education resources for school partners.