Care center bares its colorful soul


Mosaic's mosaic is a personal public work of art

Photos courtesy of Mosaic Living Center Nurse Vanessa Iverson, left, helps Kaylia Craig, 3, and Jason Zuidema, 5, create the mosaic outside Mosaic Living Center in Chicago.

When a team of artists looked for inspiration to help them decorate the exterior of a building, they looked into the building's heart: the 42 developmentally delayed children and 35 developmentally delayed adults who call Mosaic Living Center home.

"It was a great project for the kids," says Scott Swanson, Mosaic's executive director. "This project set the pace for our focus in therapeutic recreation." Mosaic's $15,000 mosaic is about 65 feet on two sides of the Rogers Park building and is decorated with words and images from the residents and staff. A close look reveals the charm of it-a self-portrait of a little girl, the words "life is beautiful" by a ventilator-dependent teenager and the 3-inch squares each resident and staff member decorated. The children worked with the artists of Chicago Public Art Group, a 30-year-old public arts organization, to place the chips of colored tile and mirror into wet mortar. The nonprofit organization also donated $5,000 toward the cost of the project.

Mosaic Center residents have a variety of special needs, but all require 24-hour medical attention. Kyla Cooper, 5, has lived at the center since she was 2 months old. Her severe cerebral palsy prevented her from working directly on the mosaic, but the little girl still delighted in the excitement of the project, according to her grandmother, Shari Cooper.

Cooper says the mosaic tiles in different shapes, colors and materials remind her of the diversity of the residents. "It also represents longevity-the wall and the center will weather all the storms that come up," says Cooper, who lives in Chicago. "When I look at the wall, I think of the staff ... they had so much time and patience to stand outside and help the residents put [the tiles] in place."

"The strength of a mosaic is that many pieces come together to form a piece of art," says Swanson. While the mosaic was being constructed last July, neighbors stopped by to help. Swanson says the community is key in all public art and key to these kids. "[Mosaic Living Center] is a home," he says. "We want the kids to be a part of the community."

Angela Schneider


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