From the floors of ancient Rome to the walls of the New York subway and Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, artists have decorated buildings with mosaics for centuries.
That tradition of mosaics has been carried on at Trinity East Elementary School, where students recently completed an ambitious, schoolwide art project that will leave a lasting impression: a five-piece mosaic mural.
Visitors and passersby will see the mosaic mural, made up of thousands of pieces of glass tiles, and about 15 feet long and 2½ feet high, on a stone shed adjacent to the elementary school.
The mural was funded through a grant from the EQT Foundation. Artists from Pittsburgh Glass Center – which partners with the foundation to provide students in rural areas in Washington and Greene counties with access to glass art learning opportunities – collaborated with Trinity East art teacher Adrienne Day on the project.
Paying homage to the school, the Trinity School District community and the city of Washington, the mural depicts, among other things, the iconic Trinity “T”; a heart that represents the students’ and the district’s goal to “Be the Kind Kid”; the Washington County Courthouse; and arts and athletics.
“It was completely student-centered,” said Day. “We had 16 or 17 classes, kindergarten through fifth grade. Everyone who was here last school year touched something on this. All of the kids had a hand in it.”
That’s important for Day, whose goal is “to expose my kids to as many art-making techniques and experiences as possible from kindergarten through grade five, so when they go to the middle school and go to the high school they have a good foundation.”
Said Day, “The Glass Center was a joy to work with. There were some true art concepts being taught, and it was all done very safely. I love teaching elementary students because I think the kids are always underestimated, and I feel like any time you set high expectations, they go way over what you ever dream they can accomplish.”
The project started in the fall of 2020, during the pandemic, and work continued throughout December. Students added the final touches during the spring of 2021.
The panels were installed on Monday by PGC artists, after several weeks of delays due to rainy weather.
PGC artists taught students about the history of mosaics and introduced them to some of the most famous artworks and artists, and then worked with them to make paper mosaics before moving on to glass mosaics, where they learned cutting, gluing and spacing techniques.
“My favorite part was cutting, because you got to cut it into different shapes and sizes,” said third-grader Savannah Klick. “I also liked using art tools to cut. I hope we can do it again next year.”
Day said the project was a favorite among the students.
“They loved it. They really got excited, and it got kids excited who I don’t usually see excited. It was something new and different, which kept them engaged. It resonated with all of the kids, and it’s a project they’ll definitely remember. It was such a cool experience, a fun experience.”
Day also oversaw a mosaic mural project at Trinity South, and students at Trinity North and Trinity West completed mini-mosaics.
Day pointed out to students that mosaics in Turkey, Italy, and other parts of the world are thousands of years old, and that their artwork will endure.
“This will last a long time. It’s permanent,” said Day. “I’m thankful for the administration’s cooperation and enthusiasm for the project. They were very supportive when I said, ‘Can I do this project and can we screw a mosaic into the building for the next 100 years?’ This is not going anywhere.”