'That's what we made?' -- Mosaic project brings together artists and young people
For several weeks now, local glass artist Becky Mitchell has been working with students at Detroit Lakes as well as Lake Park-Audubon, Circle of Life, Frazee-Vergas, Waubun-Ogema and Perham elementary schools on a project known as "Mosaic Mania: Breaking Glass, Expanding Minds."
Though it's officially an outreach project of the Historic Holmes Theatre, "Mosaic Mania" has also involved contributions from local and regional school districts, businesses and of course, from the students themselves.
This project -- which will be centered around the upcoming "Capital for a Day" festivities in Detroit Lakes on May 14 -- is aimed at showcasing the region's commitment to the arts, as well as promoting creativity amongst the 1,200 participating students in grades 3-6.
"None of these school districts, except Frazee, have an elementary art teacher -- art is taught as part of the regular classroom curriculum," Mitchell explains. "The Historic Holmes Theatre (the project's main sponsor) has been wanting to do an arts outreach project... the Capital for a Day activities seemed like a good fit, a reason for us to get out there and do it."
Mitchell noted that during the early planning meetings for "Capital for a Day," Detroit Lakes Mayor Larry Buboltz said he wanted to reach out to the surrounding communities and get them involved as well.
The students are each taking part in the creation of between 50-75 large, mosaic glass windows (one window per class). The windows will be displayed at the Historic Holmes Theatre and the DLCCC Fitness & Aquatics Center -- as well as at sponsoring businesses in the participating communities -- over the next several weeks.
Invitations were sent out to the area schools, asking them to contribute to the project. Businesses in each of the communities were also asked to "sponsor a class" for $100, which would entitle them to display the window created by that class through the first week of May. (Proceeds will be used to offset the cost of non-donated materials.)
Various businesses have donated additional supplies for the art project. Glass was primarily donated by Kokomo Glass and Harmon Glass Doctor, with additional supplies donated by Ace Hardware in Moorhead, Detroit Paint and Glass, Lynette Conmy of Jack Chivers Realty and The Glass Lady. Glue was donated by Weldbond Corporation and Beug's Ace Hardware in Detroit Lakes.
A few days prior to May 14, the windows will be taken to the Detroit Lakes Pavilion and displayed there until the "Capital for a Day" community picnic celebration.
The windows, which depict a variety of floral, landscape, lake scenes and other nature designs, will then be sold via silent auction on May 14. (There will be volunteer "proxy bidders" available on that day to bid for those who are unable to attend the festivities, Mitchell noted.)
All auction proceeds will be used for youth programs at the Detroit Lakes Community & Cultural Center (which houses the theater).
But while their creations will be auctioned off, the students will not come out of the project empty-handed, said Mitchell. Each of them were also given a small glass tile to create their own miniature mosaic window, which they would be allowed to bring home with them when completed.
So where did all the glass for this project come from? The colored glass for the mosaic designs -- all 1,000 pounds of it -- was donated by Kokomo Glass. The glass windows themselves actually came from the home of a Fergus Falls man.
"This gentleman had advertised in the Lake Region Arts Council newsletter about a year ago that he had these old windows he wanted to get rid of, but would like to see them used for an art project," Mitchell explains.
Mitchell, who uses a lot of recycled glass in her art projects, jumped at the chance.
"My husband Kevin asked, 'What on earth are you going to do with all those windows?'" she says with a laugh. "I said, 'Something will come up,' and a year later, here we are!'"
Mitchell says the project has been "really rewarding" for her.
"It's always the kids you don't expect who really get into it and enjoy it," she says. "There was one boy in Perham who said, 'This is the best school day ever!'"
Another student from Roosevelt Elementary School in Detroit Lakes, upon viewing the completed window, said to Mitchell, in an awestruck tone, "That's what we made?"
(Vicki Gerdes can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)