Awardee: Danielle Brief

Primary Artistic Medium: Visual Arts, 3 Dimensional

Idea

How do you build a community space that is pandemic-proof, inviting, calming and most importantly, safe to visit? In today’s world, what defines a community space? Can it be as simple as a sidewalk, as powerful as a street filled with peaceful protestors, or as traditional as a library? These are the questions I have sought to answer during my mosaic work and as a volunteer with the Percy Street Project, the site where I plan to execute this communal project.

For the scope of my Art is Essential grant project idea, I envision three core components that will bind together a community that is currently lacking a shared space to create.

First, accessibility. If you can spread cream cheese on a bagel, you can make a mosaic. This artform is more tactile, intimately known to Philadelphians and more hands-on than any other medium that comes to mind. In my idea, individuals will be encouraged to add a piece to a living, ongoing mosaic installation. Using my artistic acumen, I will monitor and coordinate the project.

Second, community building. In an isolated world, contributing to a tangible project is becoming increasingly difficult. You cannot create a mural over Zoom just as you cannot see a masked neighbor’s smile. In my proposal, neighbors, visitors and artists of any ability can add a couple pieces to the mosaic and feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves. They will be able to witness the growth and evolution of the mosaic mural a la Yayoi Kusama’s Obliteration Room. As the mosaic installation grows, participants will be able to observe the passage of time and feel a deep connection to their environment & community.

Third, preserving memories. Aside from the broken plates, mirror shards and crumbled pieces of pottery that will be provided in a secure recycling bin onsite, individuals will be encouraged to contribute their own meaningful objects to donate to the mosaic mural. As the collection of objects grows, the artist will install the mural piece by piece on an ongoing basis. Once the health & safety can be ensured and restrictions lift, socially distanced workshops will engage the community in a more structured environment.

With these guiding values, navigating the execution of a communal mosaic mural will be not only achievable, but can serve as a form of community art therapy. The flexibility of this project allows for multiple partners to contribute over a timeline that is easily adaptable to the environmental and social climate. Percy Street is the ideal starting location, but this project can also be replicated across multiple locations citywide to build a “mosaic map” that connects, unites and liberates neighborhoods who feel like their artistic voice has been stifled by the pandemic.

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