Seward Gateway Sculpture Project: One piece at a time


Fitting the Pieces Together

“A mosaic is a great big puzzle, and all of the pieces fit together to make a whole,” explained Connie Cohen. She’s leading teen artists in the Seward gateway sculpture project, which is destined for Fire Station #7 on Franklin Avenue as a welcoming piece for the neighborhood.

It’s the young artists who are leading the charge on the project, said Cohen, and just like creating a mosaic, it takes people with a variety of skills and interests to complete the work. The team has been working on the project together for several weeks, and Cohen said that each of the teens “come to it with their own unique sensibility.” One teen loves the detailed work of cutting and placing the tiles, another excels at piecing together the random shapes of broken tiles.

The 8 foot tall sculpture will depict scenes of various types of homes in Seward – the Mississippi River is home to fish, a tree home to an owl, single-family homes and multi-family homes for people – with the backdrop of downtown Minneapolis. Images courtesy of ArtiCulture.

What is Home?

The theme of the project is home, and when the team began their work Cohen asked the students to think about all of the different types of homes in Seward – “What is home to a fish? To a bird? To a turtle?” During the brainstorming session, one student pointed out that the earth’s home is the universe. It was from this vantage point that they decided to frame the piece, said Cohen. The mosaic starts out at a wide angle and then zooms in close.

Mosaic Work

Most of the students have done mosaic work before, and enjoy working piece by piece. One artist, Tasha White, commented, “This project is intense and tedious-it’s my kind’a thing! It satisfies my math brain.” Another artist, Maia Robers commented, “I’ve been exposed to a lot of different art processes, mosaic is a lot of work, but it’s fun.”

Through the project, the students are learning the details of mosaic work, such as how to cut glass and how to place the pieces with intention. They are also responsible for choosing the colors. When asked what they enjoy about working on the project, Larry Whiten responded, “meeting the artist, Connie, meeting new people, and learning how to work with glass.” Tasha White said that she “loves seeing the progress after working on it for hours.” Adam Ahmed said, “Everything!”

In addition to the teen artists, the project is also working with postsecondary students. Carol-lynn Comparetto is an undergraduate art education student who is working alongside the teens. She commented, “I have really fallen in love with the project and process. I really enjoy it and hope to explore glass mosaic work at college over the next year.” Cohen is also mentoring two students working towards their Master’s degrees in art therapy.

Help Create the Sculpture

The sculpture will be 3 feet by 4 feet and will stand 8 feet tall. With a significant amount of tile work ahead of them, Cohen said that “reality is setting in.” She welcomes extra hands – both teens and adults – to work on the project. “I think it would be really great if the community came out in numbers because it is their sculpture,” said Cohen.

The team plans to finish the mosaic sculpture later this fall. When it is installed, Robers said that she hopes the community sees the hard work and dedication that was devoted to the piece. White commented, “I hope people can see a part of themselves represented in the project.”

Teens who are interested in joining the project can email Deb at Community build days will be scheduled throughout the month of September. Contact ArtiCulture for details.

The sculpture project is an initiative lead by ArtiCulture, and is funded by a grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council and matching funds from an anonymous donor. Articulture Executive Director Elizabeth Greenbaum explained, “The focus of all our public art projects is to create social change through the arts by working with groups of teens and the community to make these projects happen and create ownership by the community where the works reside.” Find out more about ArtiCulture’s sculpture project in the article Seward Gateway Sculpture Project


CORRECTION: The text in the last paragraph has been corrected to read: The sculpture project is an initiative lead by ArtiCulture, and is funded by a grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council and matching funds from an anonymous donor. 

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*Edited 8/20/2013 at 11:45 a.m. to add additional sculpture funding and project information.