Creating community artworks
“Taking broken pieces and putting them together into something beautiful…”
Cheryl Smith, Issequah, USA
It’s not often that communities get to directly express their own visions via art. But Cheryl Smith is making that happen in Washington State, USA. Twice a year, this visual artist puts aside the work she is inspired, or commissioned, to do and launches a community project to bring people together and use up cast-off glass.
One of her most recent was the building of a mosaic ‘Fish Wall’ at the Issaquah Salmon Fishery, a state-sponsored institution to protect and promote the annual spawning of salmon in the town’s river. People of all ages, genders, races and abilities came together to create the beautiful wall, inspired by their own feelings about the extraordinary natural phenomenon that takes place in their midst.
Fish wall made by Issaquah community
“Mosaic art transcends age, language, physical limitations, and cultural boundaries,” Cheryl says. “Public installations bring people together from all walks of life to not only build a work of art to be shared throughout the community, but also build a mosaic of understanding that closes the gaps between generations and cultures.”
At a ‘Hopefest’ event held recently by a local NGO run by young people to assist the needy, she used tiles donated by Mosaic Trader to help 700 people, including children with disabilities, lay glass in a ‘Mosaic of Hope’. ‘To commemorate the 40th anniversary of The Issaquah Alps Trails Club and spread environmental awareness, she organized 300 members of the community to create a 3’x4’ recycled glass mosaic of the Issaquah Alps.
Issaquah residents show off pieces they are contributing to a new ‘Fish Bench’
With a degree in Fine Art from Southern Methodist University, Cheryl also runs mosaic workshops at her studio in Issaquah and makes artworks on commission.
Pieces made by participants in workshops
Some of Cheryl’s privately commissioned pieces
In addition, Cheryl facilitates liturgical art classes for the creation of individual pieces for faith communities. “When church members create their own liturgical art,” she says, “be it a small work for themselves or a large-scale installation for their worship space, amazing things happen. New understandings of scripture are revealed. Relationships among members are strengthened. Souls are nourished.”
Good Samaritan Episcopal Church 200 sq ft mosaic reredos wall. Reredos means “behind the altar.” Created by Cheryl Smith and 30 volunteer members of the Good Samaritan Liturgical Arts Ministry, it took 18 months and over 50,000 pieces of stained glass to construct this masterpiece.