Letters & Stories

THE MOSAIC GARDEN by Cheryl Sherrah, 25/1/07

the mosaic wall at st bedes semaphore
St Bedes Hall, Semaphore

The Mosaic Garden that now features on the exterior wall of the St Bedes hall was officially opened by Her Worship the Mayor, Fiona Barr on the 27 August 2006. This project began in late 2005 when I presented a community based arts project to St Bedes, staff of Western Day Programs, (Central North Adelaide Health Service), and Pt Adelaide Enfield Council. This is the second mosaic project that I have initiated with Western Day Programs who operate at St Bedes Activity Centre, Semaphore.

Western Day Programs provides a psychosocial rehabilitation program for people who experience serious mental illness, many of whom live in hostel accommodation in Semaphore. My proposal was to facilitate, plan, design, implement and install a mosaic wall in collaboration with participants of that program. The first project, Looking after Mind and Body was completed in 2005 and this led directly to the second project, The Mosaic Garden. Looking after Mind and Body was the theme for a poster competition for Mental Health Week, 2004 won by the participants of St Bedes Activity Centre. I felt that this poster could be the basis for a project working directly with participants of the Centre and supported by the staff of Western Day Programs. 

Pt Adelaide Enfield Council provided a community development grant and the result has been the transformation of this poster into 10 mosaic stepping stones that now feature in the grassed median strip on Semaphore Road. I wanted the participants who worked on the stepping stone project to further develop and extend their skills and an ambitious project grew in my mind. During the 4 months that I worked with the participants at the Centre I was acutely aware that the exterior wall at St Bedes hall required beautification. Many of the people that attend the mental health program at St Bedes Activity Centre sit outside the hall for morning and afternoon tea.  The wall is cream  besser brick and I wanted this wall transformed into a mosaic showcase that would highlight the talent, determination and skills of the participants of the Centre. My dream was fulfilled after discussion with all the players.

St Bedes parish was keen, the Pt Adelaide Enfield Council provided a grant for the project, Western Day Programs staff supported the activity, and the participants of the Centre and myself set to work with enthusiasm. The program participants chose a theme for the exterior wall of the hall, and so began the long journey that has resulted in The Mosaic Garden. Several workshops took place to realize the resulting design that I drafted and submitted to the diocese.  I felt that it was imperative to involve all participants actively in this process so that the mosaic would reflect their vision. The vision of the participants of the Centre was a happy idealized garden scene. Ceramic tiles, vitreous glass, and broken crockery donated by the community have all been used to create a festive and playful garden scene on the wall. The participants wanted bright colourful flowers, vibrant butterflies, buzzee bees, beautiful dragonflies, a gum tree with their names inscribed into the trunk, a bright red toadstall, and people sitting on a garden bench looking inwards, sheltered by an umbrella, next to a welcome sign, and the street number of the building.

For 6 months, with the support of the staff of the Western Day Programs, the participants of the Centre and I met every Monday to create the images from the designs that I produced. We created these images on mesh inside the hall that would later be transferred by me onto the outside wall. This mosaic method was chosen because it was felt by mental health staff that it would be too challenging for participants to work directly onto the exterior wall. In early July 2006, with all the mosaic images completed, I began the task of transferring the mosaics that had been created on mesh to the external wall. This wall is 8 metres long by 2.8metres high, and required 40kg of grout and 40kg of tile adhesive, and 52,000 mosaic pieces! This installation took me 2 months to complete. Many local people would stop daily for a chat, to lend a hand, or donate broken crockery.  This provided a positive opportunity to advocate and promote disability and the arts. In total the project took me 8 month’s to complete.  I consider it my “gift to the community”. To me, The Mosaic Garden is a testimony that explores the greatest potential despite the severity often dealt in life.

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