Mosaic planned for Southwest Senior Center

The project is designed to prevent graffiti, build community and bridge different generations of Southwest residents   

EAST HARRIET — Volunteers young and old will join together this month to create a huge mosaic on a wall of the Southwest Senior Center at 36th Street & Bryant Avenue.

The project will involve seniors, eighth-grade students from Clara Barton Open School, 4237 Colfax Ave. S., and community members from the East Harriet and CARAG neighborhoods. The Southwest Senior Center received an $8,000 graffiti-prevention micro grant from the city for the mosaic, but the project is just as much about community building as it is about stopping vandalism.

“We really want to invite the whole community to come in,” said Southwest Senior Center Director Mary Ann Schoenberger. “Families, kids; we want anyone who wants to participate to come be a part of it.”

The roughly 1,000-square-foot mosaic could take about two months to make and will go up on a south wall frequently hit with graffiti.

Local artist Maria Ricke will oversee the project, designed to be an oval shape with a tree in the middle, symbolizing different generations of community members. It will be made of thousands of ceramic tile pieces and other objects that volunteers contribute.

Visioning sessions for the mosaic were scheduled earlier this month. One was specifically to get input from Barton students, who learned about mosaic construction and graffiti and planned to give presentations about the project to students in other grades. The students were encouraged to help out with the project on their own time.

Barton students have given dance presentations to seniors at the center in the past, but this is the first time the school has been involved with an art project. Schoenberger said involving the students is an important part of the mosaic’s community-building focus. 

“One of the things we really find is a lot of kids don’t know older people,” she said. “And some older people might have misconceptions about younger people, too. We think it’s really important to bring different generations together to break down some barriers.”

Allison Rubin Forester, the Barton teacher involved in the project, said getting students to form relationships with seniors who are not their relatives helps them recognize and build respect for older generations.   

“Middle schoolers can get so ego-centric that they lose sight of the bigger picture,” she said.

Senior Center regular and volunteer Pat Marentic, 67, said she enjoys the youthful enthusiasm visiting students bring to the center. Marentic is looking forward to helping out with the mosaic, which she said would brighten the building outside as well as the mood inside.

“When you come in, you’ll look at it and your eyes will be pulled to it — all the beautiful, bright colors — and you’ll bring that in with you.”

The East Harriet Farmstead Neighborhood Association (EHFNA) and Calhoun Area Residents Action Group (CARAG) each plan to be involved in the mosaic’s construction.

Scott Engel, CARAG’s community coordinator, said the group’s crime and safety committee wanted to participate to help prevent graffiti and beautify the area.

CARAG also made a financial contribution to help pay for project materials.

“Walls like the wall of the Senior Center are blank canvasses for folks that want to create graffiti,” Engel said. “By installing this mural, I think it’s going to not only create a barrier to graffiti but create a real neat community art piece.”

Reach Jake Weyer at 436-4367 or [email protected]


Get Involved

Several workshops have been scheduled to get community members involved in the development of the Southwest Senior Center mosaic. All workshops will take place at the center, 3612 Bryant Ave. S. For more information, contact Southwest Senior Center Director Mary Ann Schoenberger at 822-3194.

Visioning workshops
Sept. 6, 10 a.m.
Sept. 8, 6 p.m.
Sept. 10, 1 p.m.

Training workshop
Sept. 15, 6 p.m.

Mosaic construction workshops
Sept. 22, 6 p.m.
Sept. 26, 1 p.m.
Sept. 27, 10 a.m.
Sept. 30, 1 p.m.
Oct. 8, 1 p.m.