Building community is a big part of Piece by Piece. As individuals and as a group, it is through the strength and support of others that we are able to thrive and realize our whole potential. We have made many small group projects where skills are built and friendships forged. At our Open Studio Sessions at Broadway Village II, artists can work on individual projects, join in a group project, and be inspired by instructors and fellow artists. This year, as we entered our seventh consecutive year at Broadway Village II, owned by Deep Green Housing, we looked to create something a little bigger as a community.
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. By doing so, we could not only improve our participant artists skills by having mosaic flower-making workshops, we could reach out to local residents through events. We made flowers with the community at the South Central Jazz Festival and workshops at Mercado La Paloma. At the Mercado, we partner with Esperanza Community housing to broaden our exposure and expand creative economy in a corridor of South Los Angeles that extends to Skid Row.
To begin the project, during the summer, 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, very 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.
The support of so many individuals, artists, and groups, has widened our participants’ artistic experience and expanded their vision. They are looking at artwork from different countries with a new eye.
Piece by Piece instructor Leigh Adams tends to donated plants for the garden with volunteers.
Our artists are also looking to contribute themselves to other international projects, spreading their enthusiasm and talents further than they ever imagined.
Thank you to everyone who participated and supported this project!