This post is a follow-up to a slide presentation that I delivered at the American Mosaic Summit in Tacoma, WA last week detailing the challenges and rewards of facilitating my first community mosaic. I had to talk fast because my time was limited, and I was so nervous I failed to tie up some loose ends in the story. I've been asked a lot of questions over the past few days, so I'll try to answer some of them here.
The most popular question: "Would you do it again?"
- Yes! I hope to continue to create mosaic in communities at least once or twice each year. This first project was hard and had some challenges, but now I can anticipate some of those problems and plan ahead.
- I would pre-grout the individual fish before adhering them to the substrate (so the thinset couldn't push through.)
- I would insist on doing outdoor installation in summer and avoid a steep deadline.
- I would do more to disseminate information about the project before and during execution.
- I now have a posse. I know who to call when the next project rears it's head.
- I would probably even do the work indoors on mesh, then do the installation myself (although that doesn't allow for passers-by to get involved, which felt essential in the case of the Artesian Well.)
Next most common question: "Did you stay in touch with Thor?"
- Yes, Thor and I stay in touch via email and facebook. After the project, he moved out to my friends' goat farm and worked as a farm hand, but since it wasn't on the bus line, he had to move back to town after the summer and his housing situation continues to be tenuous.
- I had Thor and my other core volunteers out to my house for a mosaic workshop as a thank you for all of their dedication. I gave him some tools and materials to work with, though it can be a challenge for him since he doesn't have a place to keep his stuff or a work space.
- I did a little fundraiser for Thor last October, which was originally intended so that he could attend the conference. However, his immediate needs have to do with housing, food, and a way to keep making art, so I used the money I raised to buy him some mosaic books and supplies.
- Thor owns very little, but he does have a laptop and vinyl cutter and he does freelance work making signs and designs that can be adhered to just about anything. His goal is to get back into graphic arts school so that he can get back on his feet.
- If you have any ideas for a vinyl design (Your logo for your car or laptop? Signage?) here is Thor's facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/jasun.thor Send him a message. Keep in mind that his email access is intermittent, but he usually responds within a couple of days. Hopefully, he'll be in a solid living situation soon with his equipment all set up and ready to go.
- If you are in the Olympia area and you have a lead on a space that Thor could use to keep his equipment and work on art, please contact him.
People asked, "Why is there such a large homeless population in Olympia?"
- Ok, I don't actually know the ins and outs of this topic, but here's my take: For one, there are homeless folks in every city. I think many cities do more work to hide the homeless. There are strict ordinances against loitering and the services for street dependent people are placed far from the business districts so that "regular people" don't have to interact with those suffering from mental illness and drug addiction. (I could expound on the influence of Reagan-era changes to the mental health system and how that created our current situation, but I'll spare you.)
- Yes, it does have a very devastating impact on the downtown businesses. Those "regular people" avoid shopping in that area.
- The climate in Western WA is temperate, so people are less likely to freeze to death without housing.
- Olympia is a very "earthy-crunchy" place, where Evergreen State College students and graduates are working hard to subvert the dominant paradigm and laws are being passed on the capital campus, so there is a lot of activism. There are a lot of compassionate people who pass out sandwiches and try to help however they can. And there is a free source of water for washing and staying hydrated.
And the loose ends that I didn't tie up:
- I started out my presentation describing myself as introverted and shy, lacking in leadership skills. Through doing this project, I learned that I have quiet leadership skills. I can mediate and diffuse. I am flexible and open to ideas. I overheard someone telling a reporter that I was "the only person who could have done this project successfully." I'm still trying to wrap my brain around all of this, but I see myself a little bit differently now.
- My own relationship to the well: I moved to Olympia in 1988 to attend college. I've always seen the Artesian Well as a sign of hope. As we get more and more bad news about the Puget Sound (Oysters are dying, sea lion babies are starving to death in droves, the water is full of phosphates and acid...) there is still clean, pure water flowing out of this pipe in a parking lot. Somehow, it makes me optimistic. When the water starts failing the monthly tests, or the pressure starts to drop, I will really start losing hope. Water is life, and the Artesian Well is a constant reminder that we have to protect it.
One more thing: I blogged regularly while I was doing the project. If you go back to March of 2012, I was just starting, and you can read about the progress in more detail. Here is the first entry about the Artesian Well project: http://cosmicbluemonkey.blogspot.com/2012/03/olympia-artesian-well-mosaic-beginnings.html