I have had the privilege to work on eight public and community public art projects over about the last 20 years. None of them has demonstrated the powerful force of community art the way Pieced Together—Canada’s Mosaic has. This mosaic is the culmination of the creativity, capacity and perseverance that makes our community thrive.
There are of course many people to thank and I will come to some familiar names later. But first I want to thank the project participants who were such a pleasure to work with. They contributed a huge amount of personal time and energy to the project. This was my first experience working with people with disabilities on a public art project. I was inspired by their focus, attention to detail, and commitment to the project. They demonstrated that in the making of community public art, people from all walks of life come together—sharing experiences and bridging gaps.
After Semiahmoo House Society received the Canada 150 grant from the Federal Government last spring, we were looking around for an installation site. I mentioned this at an art show opening at which Councilor Lynne Sinclair was in attendance and she expressed an interest for the City of White Rock. Her enthusiasm brought the project to Eric Stepura and Claire Halpern of the Public Art Advisory and early last fall it was approved and passed by City Council. Thanks to Mayor Baldwin and all you folks from City Hall who helped make this a reality. And thanks to White Rock Library Manager David Thiessen for approving the site and to Jasper Macabulos, for creating the design.
Once we were settled on the design, a full size 8‘ x 5’ copy was printed and then divided to create manageable sections. Doug Anderson, a volunteer, made a plywood tray for each of the 8 sections. This allowed the work to be stored efficiently and moved to other places such as Seniors Come Share and the Acquired Brain Injury Services [of Semiahmoo House Society].
As Project Coordinator I enjoyed watching a very unique process unfold in workshops led by Tanya at Semiahmoo House.
In each plywood tray, a part of the design was laid down, then covered with wax paper to act as glue resist, and finally a layer of fiberglass mesh was laid on top. Participants then glued each piece of glass or ceramic tile to the mesh, following the design below it. As anyone who has worked in mosaics will know, this is a very labour intensive process. Participants developed proficiency in all aspects of mosaic construction, including scoring, nipping and cutting glass and ceramic tile. They worked collaboratively on different sections of the pieces, blending the tesserae to create the colourful imagery.
This project gave the participants an opportunity to learn skills while engaging in meaningful arts practice for their community. Whenever I stopped in to see the progress from time to time, I was always impressed with the quality and quantity of the work accomplished. Tanya did a great job of running the workshops at Semiahmoo House and everyone who worked on it is to be sincerely congratulated.
The work was completed by about the end of January, but it was necessary to wait for warm dry weather for the installation. Finally, in early May, we were fortunate to have a long enough stretch of good weather and with the assistance of my brother Reg Glover, a stroke survivor himself, we began the installation which took about six days.
To begin, the mesh backing of each section was cut into manageable sizes, roughly 2’ x 2’, and after troweling the mortar onto the wall, each section was lifted and pressed into the mortar. The mural was then grouted and the grout was sealed after curing.
I’d like to thank Semiahmoo House Society Director Doug Tennant, Brianna, Kelly and Tanya, and all the Semiahmoo House members and staff who were involved in the construction of the mosaic There were also people involved from Seniors’ Come Share, [Semiahmoo House Society’s] Acquired Brain Injury Services and Recreation and Leisure Services, and students from White Rock Elementary.
In closing, I’d like to say that many cities in Canada and the United States have developed active public and community public art programs in recent years. The projects, like this mosaic, enliven city spaces and give a voice to communities. Community public art is at its best when it enhances public spaces while promoting a feeling of belonging and ownership. I am very proud and honoured to have been a part of this important work.
Thank you for coming out today to celebrate the completion of this project.
Connie Glover, Local Artist