Monday, April 30, 2012

So Long and Thanks for All the Fish!

The community-participation aspect of the Artesian Well mosaic project took place this past weekend, in partial conjunction with Olympia's Spring Arts Walk Festival.  I anticipated a good turnout on Saturday, because it coincided with the festivities, where many downtown streets become pedestrian-only, filling with jugglers, musicians, and citizens interested in enjoying the art and fun atmosphere.  I wasn't sure what to expect on Sunday.
We were not disappointed!  We managed to set everything up early, and we had participants coming by already, so we had several people already in progress on their fish well before the official noon start time.  From there, it was a full house all day, with people always waiting for a spot to open up.  We had to improvise and set up extra spots.  Volunteers found extra chairs and we accommodated as many people as possible.

I was very impressed that so many volunteers showed up and jumped right in to help.  Alan Rodgers was there when I arrived, and helped Lisandro and I with the whole set-up, both days.  After that, Jamie, Karen, Tina, and Bryn jumped in, helping new participants find spots, cutting and laying down contact paper, explaining the process, nipping when necessary, and wrapping and stacking the completed fish.  Frank Lynam helped with clean-up both days.

We had snacks and beverages provided by Grocery Outlet, and Vic's actually delivered pizzas for the volunteers both days!  It was most appreciated, since we really didn't have time to take breaks.  We just took it in turns to go off to the side and wolf down a slice.

As busy as it was, it all went off without a hitch.  We had plenty of materials, we managed to rotate people through at a good pace, getting new people set up quickly.  Two sets of wheeled nippers walked away on Saturday, which was disappointing, but that is the worst thing that happened, and it is quite minor.
Many people worked in groups, often teaming up on one fish.

Pizza delivery accomplished, time to make a fish.

Getting started.

Beautiful fish!

Dad and daughter working side-by-side.

The crowd rotated through, changing throughout the day.
I think it took, on average, about an hour for each person to complete a fish.  A few people spent half the day, using smaller pieces and putting careful effort into their creation.  Some people went with larger pieces and more abstracted fish.  We gave them some simple guidelines (take care with sharp edges, leave space between pieces, try not to mix up all of the colors, have fun) but it was impossible to really exercise quality control.  I will spend today and tomorrow adjusting each fish and covering the surfaces with tile tape.

This weekend was both exhausting and invigorating at the same time.  The fish-makers were all so excited, they expressed over and over that this was one of the most fun experiences they'd had in a long time, that they loved how the design incorporated the community, and they each took photos of their fish so they can find it easily when the whole project is finished.  People working on mosaic under that canopy over the weekend included a wide cross-section of the community, from all socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds.  We had fish made by toddlers and elderly people.  Whole families worked on one fish, and a couple of adults came by both days because they had so much fun the first time.  At the end of Saturday, we had made 82 fish.  (I haven't counted Sunday's yet.)
Vince Brown and Monica Peabody came by and played music for us on Sunday!
So, the community mosaic project was a great success.  Now for the serious work of transferring all of that hard work onto the concrete forms around the well, filling in the space between them, and getting it grouted.  My biggest fear is that there are some people who will sabotage the work while it is in progress.  I will have to leave ungrouted mosaic untended, and it might be tempting for some people to pry the pieces off and ruin the work before it is finished.  I certainly hope that will not be the case.

Thank you to everyone who came to help, both volunteers and fish-making Olympians!  I could not create this project without you!  And extra special thanks to Lisandro for organizing the donations, helping to keep track of materials, and volunteer recruitment and scheduling.

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