Hundreds volunteer to build community mosaic in Minneapolis Kingfield neighborhood

Allison and Gordon show students and a teacher from Barton Open School working with a Southwest Senior Center participant. (All photos courtesy of Mary Ann Schoenberger)

Kingfield neighborhood's new community mosaic involves not only hundreds of pieces of glass, but hundreds of hands. While too many cooks may spoil the broth, the efforts of more than 270 volunteers mean that there will be a wonderful new art piece for Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Park and they generate a spirit of collaboration, camaraderie, and ownership among all who have helped.

FULL DISCLOSURE: The author of this article is the director of the Southwest Senior Center.

Volunteers of America-Minnesota’s Southwest Senior Center and Kingfield Neighborhood Association are partnering to create 10 mosaic panels (for a total of 160 square feet) that will be installed on an exterior wall at King Park. The images on the ten panels are artistic interpretations of traditional textile patterns from cultural communities that use the park. Sharra Frank, the lead artist on the Bryant Avenue Bike Mosaic, is heading up the project. “The goal of the Mosaic Quilting Project is to demonstrate, through visual art, the diversity of cultures in our community and celebrate their shared public space at Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park,” said Sarah Linnes-Robinson, Executive Director of the Kingfield Neighborhood Association.

So far, a dozen workshops have taken place at Volunteers of America-MN’s Southwest Senior Center, King Park, Sabathani Senior Center, Ramsey Middle School and Park Elder Center. The workshops have drawn large crowds of people ranging in age from two to ninety-seven, with one workshop at King Park drawing more than eighty-five people. In spite of the large groups, participants quickly become engaged, placing each piece of glass in a good spot. While working on the mosaic, people have the chance to meet their tablemates and learn and experiment together.

King Park Workshop shows many generations working on the project. That was the day that 85 people worked on the project.

A group of dedicated lead volunteers help orient newcomers to the project and give them instruction on how to correctly place and glue all of the glass pieces. “It’s amazing that we can have so many people work on a project of this scale without sacrificing quality. I really think that they have done a fantastic job,” said Frank.

The Hmong Pattern shows one of our participants at Park Elder Center helping with the Hmong Pattern.

One unique aspect of this year’s mosaic project is the involvement of multiple senior centers including Southwest, Sabathani, Park Elder Center, Hmong Elder Connection and Centro. “Research shows that seniors benefit from being involved in high level art projects and this project has the added benefit of bringing many cultures and all the generations together,” said Laura Campbell, the adult day manager at Southwest Senior Center.

The Crazy Quilt is one of 10 4'X4' panels representing traditional textiles from different cultures.

About 60 percent of the panels have been completed, so there are still opportunities for people to volunteer. A January 17 workshop will bring together all of the senior groups and a January 26 workshop at King Park at 1 pm is open to the public. For more information, contact Mary Ann at 612-822-3194 or mschoenberger [at] voamn [dot] org.

The project is funded by the voters of Minneapolis through grants from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund, and by a grant from the City of Minneapolis Graffiti Prevention Program.

About Southwest Senior Center

Southwest Senior Center, a program of Volunteers of America-Minnesota, serves the neighboring Minneapolis community through a wide variety of programs, services and volunteer opportunities that support the health and independence of older adults. Southwest’s programs include an adult day program, social work services, senior dining, health and nutrition programs, exercise classes, and numerous health, education, cultural and arts offerings. The Center has facilitated two previous community mosaic projects with funding from the City of Minneapolis Graffiti Prevention Program.

Bryant Avenue Mosaic - this is the mosaic that our artist Sharra Frank designed in 2011.

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Mary Ann Schoenberger's picture
Mary Ann Schoenberger

Mary Ann Schoenberger is the director of the Southwest Senior Center.