At about hour fifteen of the twenty-two hours that it took to install the new community mosaic at Bryant Avenue Market, a mom and her daughter stopped by to offer the volunteers cookies and muffins. She thanked the ten people who were working on the installation for making the neighborhood a better place by creating something beautiful on a corner that had been run down. Everyone beamed with pride as we heard our work praised. That was just one of the many magical moments that I experienced while working on the Bryant Avenue Community Mosaic, which was organized by .
Trying to build a twenty four foot long, 150 plus square foot mosaic in six weeks is a daunting challenge. It took longer than we expected, but the volunteers stepped up to the plate each time we needed more help. During the first couple of weeks, we focused on snowflakes and it seemed as though we would never finish. Students from Barton, participants at the Senior Center, residents at Walker Place, neighbors, kids from the after school program at Bryant Square Park, and a volunteer group from Optum Health helped us to build forty-three snowflakes. Each snowflake is a work of art in itself and we were amazed at how seven patterns could result in such diverse creations. Some people were quick workers, while others painstakingly thought through the placement of each piece. We paired people of different ages and backgrounds together, and they got to know each other. Altogether, 185 people, ranging in age from five to ninety-nine, helped to build and install the mosaic.
By week three, the project started to take over Southwest Senior Center. We had tables all over the Center covered with mosaic pieces. A core group of volunteers emerged as we headed into the final weeks. Art Dupey, 67, one of the Center’s regular volunteers, was our master cutter. His experience in the building trades was invaluable to us, and he sliced through the stained glass like butter (as a person who butchered some glass, I was astounded by his skill). The other core volunteers were neighborhood residents, CARAG Board members, and some people who had taken classes with our wonderful artist, Sharra Frank.
MEA weekend I sent out a plea for help so that we could finish the mosaic that weekend because installation was scheduled for the next week. To make matters more complicated, Sen. Al Franken had scheduled a press conference at the Center for the Wednesday after MEA, and we needed to get the Center back in shape, without mosaics everywhere. Again, our volunteers showed up, staying long into the day and coming again Sunday morning. Carol Bouska became our expert on piecing the complicated pieces inside the bike tire. Jean Jonas spent hours assembling the bare trees and Shotsie Forsythe made an incredibly beautiful roof. I remember Shotsie calling one morning to apologize for not being able to come because she had to jet off to New York because her daughter had her baby early. That’s dedication
We were blessed with good weather for the installation, which took place October 27– 30. That’s when the team caught fire. Once we figured out a system, we became a well oiled machine and under the guidance of artist Sharra Frank and installer, Cathy Bryson, everyone learned what to do and did it. Kellie Hoyt, Paul Doud and Sharra spent a lot of time perched on the scaffolding installing and grouting our largest snowflake. We all heaved a sigh of relief when that four foot wide, heavy snowflake was lifted into the air and pushed into place. Denise Fogel and Shelly Long worked so long on grouting that I thought their arms might fall off. Diana Boegemann helped each day of the installation and I don’t think a smile left her face the entire time. Too many other people worked on the mosaic to mention by name, but we are grateful to all of you for your efforts and enthusiasm.
After the installation, artist Sharra Frank could be found at the mosaic putting on finishing touches, which really made it shine. Sharra’s beautiful design, patience, expertise and calm demeanor guided the process. There were times when she must have thought it was crazy to let 185 people loose on her design, but Sharra remained calm and the final result is amazingly professional considering how many hands were involved in the project.
Right now the mosaic is covered up in preparation for our Mosaic Celebration and Unveiling. Please join us on Saturday, November 19 at 10 am at Bryant Square Park (3101 Bryant Avenue South) for the Celebration featuring a slide show of the process. Around 11 we’ll parade over to Bryant Avenue Market (3200 Bryant Avenue South) for the Grand Unveiling.
This project was funded by a Innovative Graffiti Prevention Micro-Grant from the City of Minneapolis, Calhoun Area Residents Action Group (CARAG) and Volunteers of America – Minnesota.
Volunteers of America – Minnesota’s Southwest Senior Center offers a wide variety of programs, services and volunteer opportunities that support the health and independence of older adults including social work, adult day, senior dining, exercise and many health, educational and social programs. Southwest Senior Center is located at 3612 Bryant Avenue South, Minneapolis. For more information, call 612-822-3194 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.