Piece by Piece Visiting Artist Series – A Chance to Learn from Professional Artists

Many schools and universities have visiting artist programs for good reason: It provides the opportunity for students to hear from established and emerging individuals in their specific vocation. At Piece by Piece, the visiting artist program becomes especially meaningful to our participants, who have little to no contact with artists in the professional world. By sharing their experiences and special techniques, visiting artists to Piece by Piece help our artists gain self-confidence and the embrace the power of knowledge.

Our first visiting artist, Lillian Sizemore, helped to shape the nature of the program. An educator and artist, Lillian was attune to the needs of our eager but unsure participant artists. Her first workshops brought not only highly-valued technical skill learning, but also open doors for the more broad view of art in general. One of her first workshops was on the sacred mandalas. She led the class in exploring the art of mandalas, and then helped each individual develop their own piece. These first workshops helped define this most valuable program within Piece by Piece’s certificate program.

The visiting artist workshops have been supported by grants from the National Endowment of the Arts since 2009. Last year, we received a $30,000 to continue this program. We have been able to bring some of the best and most experienced artists to work with our artists on both individual and group projects. In fact, it was through one of our visiting artists, Sherri Warner Hunter, that we achieved one of our biggest goals of completing our first public art project, the Villas at Gower Leaves.

With the help of San Deigo-based artist Kim Emerson, we created three large spheres, which were on display at the Los Angeles County Arboretum. Matt Doolin, of Topanga Art Tile worked has been a visiting artist several times, including assisting our artists in creating handmade tiles for our “Entangled Bank” mural at Irvine Valley College.

Other artists, such as Mireille Swinnen, work closely with participants on specific techniques. Most recently, she led the group in creating a mosaic table using the reverse method and a small mural using a special thinset technique.


Dawn Mendelson

Dawn Mendelson has provided leadership in the development of Piece by Piece since 2007. She has over time built an arts curriculum for participants that fosters learning in design, drawing, creativity and collage mosaic technique. As Piece by Piece Artistic Director, she steers the vision for workshops held at a variety of locations. Dawn specializes in pique assiette, a style of mosaic which uses recycled materials. She has been featured on HGTV and Dawn was twice selected as Educator with the Mayor's Gang Reduction Program. Her passion is working with people, especially those who are new to art, and enjoying their moments of self-discovery.