We noticed a forgotten garden in a communal space, where children play and residents sit at the picnic tables to chat or sit in a quiet place. It needed some attention. What if, we thought, we created a new garden — a mosaic garden — that would withstand the current drought conditions of California and bring some much-needed color and vibrancy to a now-unused space in this affordable housing building in South L.A.
With grant funding from the California Arts Council and the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, we thought to transform this space by creating one of the largest community projects we’ve done to date.
To begin the project, at our open studio sessions we created a series of large flowers as a group. Individual artists, both new and experienced, also made smaller flowers of their choosing. Young artists and families made flowers together. We used a variety of materials, from scrap stained glass to donated re-purposed ceramics. During the installation process, many volunteers and supporters reached out. We also received generous donations of twenty bags of soil, plants and valuable volunteer time from South Los Angeles Guerrilla Gardener, Ron Finley.
The flowers were created on fiberglass mesh, using water soluble glue as the “tack”, This allowed us to store the growing quantity of mosaic flowers. As we began to show the flowers on social media, the community at large expressed interest in participating. We invited Piece by Piece visiting artists to contribute. The world of professional mosaic artists started sending us flowers from Florida, Pennsylvania, Arizona, South Carolina, Idaho, Nebraska, Texas, New Jersey, and various parts of California.
It didn’t stop there. Our project went global with two flowers from our mosaic friend in New Zealand. Artists from Germany and Canada contributed. One of the largest group contributions came from artist Cris Piloto of Cola Caco in Rio, Brazil. There, both adults and children created mosaic flowers for Piece by Piece, and in our first international cultural exchange ever, our artists created mosaic forms on mesh for Cola Caco’s community project in a neighborhood in Rio. In a visit to the U.S. Cris brought her group’s flowers and we gave her the house shapes to take home to her project. When all was said and done, we had over 500 flowers from 10 states and 4 countries.
What we have gained from this project was incredible and unexpected. Aside from the physical flowers, received with much gratitude, the support from around the world has made this global.
Piece by Piece workshops in Council District 9 are supported, in part, through a grant from the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs.
Year Installed: 2016
Client: Deep Green Housing
Size: 5 ft x 40 ft
Materials: Recycled ceramic and glass
Viewing: Gated courtyard, not public
Address:5101 S. Broadway, Los Angeles, CA
Piece by Piece Artists: Dawn Mendelson, Luz Mack-Durini, Julie Williams, Bea Jones, Leigh Adams, Hilda M., Jose M., Carole B., Terry, Miracle, Mike V., Victor V., Victor J., Hugo S., Abraham, Jaime, Terry, Guadalupe G., and the community at large