Haiti Mosaic Project Update

Jacmel Mosaic Mural Project Remembering the Past, Celebrating the Future

Tree of Life Memorial Mural and proud artists.

I recently returned from my second trip to Haiti, where I have been working on a large community mosaic project with Haitian youth in the city of Jacmel. I am working in partnership with Art Creation Foundation for Children (ACFFC) in Jacmel.

Jacmel is a historic town about 30 miles south of Port au Prince, known for its architecture and vibrant artistic culture. Jacmel was damaged badly by the tragic earthquake in January- lives were lost as well as many homes and businesses. Tent cities abound and many people are lacking basic resources, jobs and the means to support their families.

Jacmel streets.

ACFFC has been working in Jacmel for almost ten years to provide youth with
arts education, a food program, health care, family support and entrepreneurial training in the arts.

ACFFC gate and paper mache artworks by ACFFC youth.

In June of this year, I traveled to Haiti to work with ACFFC youth to design and create a large- scale mosaic mural project on a public wall which was donated for the project by the Mayor of Jacmel. I was accompanied and assisted by Erin Rogers a friend and fellow mosaic artist. ACFFC board member Nancy Josephson co- conceptualized the project.

In 8 days we worked with over 50 youth and adults to create a beautiful 17' x 8' mosaic mural depicting an ancestral tree with birds, musical instruments and a sun/ moon which wraps around the corner to the adjacent wall.

Tree of Life Mural in progress. Shells being laid into a crack caused by the earthquake. Photos: Erin Rogers and L True.

The mural is meant to serve as a memorial for the lives lost as a result of the earthquake as well as an affirmation for growth and future rebuilding in Haiti. There are a dozen little shelves for candles embedded in in the mosaic, which were lit up on the evening we completed the mural.

The mural was created from mostly gathered and locally sourced materials including broken tile donated from Mosaic Gardere in Port au Prince, shells, stones, mirror, sea glass and salvaged materials.

Detail of mosaic eye- Photo Erin Rogers. Me setting mosaic with ACFFC artist.

The project focused on skill- building and mosaic training for youth and young adults so that they may use these skills for future entrepreneurial development and will serve as the beginning of a sustainable mosaic art program at ACFFC- as well as potential job training for teachers and trades people. In addition to the above, it was a really fun project and literally hundreds of people came to watch the mural come to life over the course of the week. It was very special and the kids on the project, already artists themselves, were so cool and took right to the mosaic medium. They were so proud of what they had created for their town.

Crowd forming around mural. This pic shows the long, 200+ wall mentioned below very well!

The Jacmel Mayor Edwin Zenny is in support of the continuing project to help affirm Jacmel as the artistic center and tourist destination it has historically been. He showed this support by offering two large walls on which to continue the mosaic mural project. One of the walls turns the corner along the beach, where fisherman are stationed, kids play soccer and merchants sell food and drinks. The other wall extends 212' feet down the road towards the center of town.

Mayor Edwin Zenny setting mosaic piece and with me and ACFFC director Georges Metellus.

By mid- summer there were murmurings in town of having the project participants do other projects around town, at the houses of other people, hotels, etc.. Very exciting.

In August, I returned to Jacmel to do another portion of the mosaic wall and the kids were ready!

They already knew what they were doing so they got right to it. The kids created designs for a second mural- facing the beach- that was over twice the size of the first mural and we completed it in less time! The Sea Spirits mural is 42' x 9' and depicts sea life and an image of Lasiren, a spirit of the sea. We created upwards of 30 mosaic fish on mesh, which we applied "applique style" to the wall. The rest was set directly onto the concrete.

Sea Spirits mural center detail.

The mural includes broken tile, beautiful blues donated by Mosaique Gardere as well as aqua and other accent colors donated by Heath Ceramics in California (and carried in our luggage to Haiti!), mirror (or course) and glass. Several American ceramic artists also donated fish tiles after I put out a last-minute call for donations and these fish tiles really looked great in the "sea". (A special thank you to Carol Belevaqua, Niki Glen, Helen Hewig ad Robin Indar and also to Tricia Huffman for her donation of half glass marbles, which we have used in both murals and will keep using!)

Detail of mosaic and handmade tiles. LT and Erin working with kids and in progress shots.

It was a huge project and by that time we were already looking towards tackling the next phase of the project (the 200+ foot wall).

Completed mural and proud artists.

My role this time was not only to lead and facilitate the creation of the mural project (with Erin assisting once again) and arrange the design elements, but also to work specifically with a core group of team leaders and train them so that eventually they will take over more and more project leadership, management and implementation. This is key in entrepreneurial training for larger projects.

I am showing the team leaders how to lead a grouting session and also how to deal with the scale designs for Phase Three of project.

The kids are up for the challenge and I was so impressed at how they stepped forwards and took different roles. I was/ am super proud of them.

The Sea Spirits mural set the groundwork for forging ahead to the third phase of the project, the long wall, (212 ' long and roughly 1300 sq ft) which will be executed in multiple parts through the end of the year, depicting scenes of historic Jacmel, a karnival procession (which Jacmel is famous for) and stylized flora and fauna of the region. It will be a true celebration of Jacmel and Haiti in the form of a wonderful piece of public art, viewable to everyone.

When I departed at the end of last month, the kids had created design resource material for a section of the wall that will depict flora and fauna of Haiti. We had specific meetings and lessons about design transfer, scale and composition and the kids assignment was to transfer the scale design onto the next chunk of wall, which they are currently working on.

Wall for the Karnival mural (Phase Three) and ACFFC artists working on preliminary designs for first section of this wall.

I will return to Jacmel in October to continue to guide ACFFC youth through the next phases of this challenging and amazing project. They are excited and up for it. Their goal is to finish the mosaic wall project before the anniversary of the earthquake in January 2011, when. The mural will be gifted to the city of Jacmel.

Scroll down to the bottom of this post for more photo links!

How you can help:

Back this project by making a pledge on Kickstarter!


Donate materials:

One of the main things we are trying to collect is brightly colored tile. We carry close to 100# in our luggage and I have been sending boxes of tile from my studio to Miami to be carried as luggage one by one as friends and colleagues of ACFFC travel to Haiti.

We are also putting out a call to handmade tile makers who would like to donate colorful flower tiles for the mural.

(Low relief, 1/4" max thickness, low or high fire glazes).

If you or anyone you know is interested in making a donation of the above materials, please contact me through my website at www.Truemosaics.com.

To view more photos and read a wonderful online article chronicling my first trip to Haiti for the Tree of Life Mural, follow the links below:

Photos of Tree of Life Mural:http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/album.php?aid=185811&id=276758323289&ref=mf 

Photos of Sea Spirits Mural:


Article that Nancie Ppgrass wrote:http://thedecoratingdiva.com/art-with-a-mission-piecing-together-hearts-souls-in-haiti-via-mosaics/

Mesi Anpil!