Mosaic Benches

It’s all about mosaics for me lately! I have been collecting tile all year for a mosaic project with youth in Free Arts NYC programs. The vast majority of the tile came from Our World Neighborhood Charter School next to my church, Trinity Lutheran, in Queens. Two posts ago, I mentioned using some of that tile in some of my personal pieces that were later exhibited at Materials for the Arts, also in Queens. Well, now it’s really coming back full circle! After we finished the project at Free Arts (see my previous post), Trinity took the leftover tile back so that we could implement a project with the church community!

In March, a group from Trinity traveled to Israel on a Lenten pilgrimage, and I was fortunate to be able to go with them. While we were there, we saw mosaic after mosaic!

Ancient mosaics floors…


Mosaics in churches…


Contemporary mosaics…


Mosaics made by kids…


And a mosaic that I helped coordinate through my last job at CITYarts in NYC…


As we were brainstorming what project to do with our tiles, the church gardener mentioned it would be really neat to make benches for the garden. I definitely agreed, but said we would need a cement bench to add a mosaic to – I had no experience building forms out of cement (though it would be neat to learn!) A week or so later, Our World Neighborhood Charter School asked us if we wanted three cement benches – the school had no use forĀ  them. It’s times like these I don’t really believe in coincidence. God basically tossed what we needed in our laps, and the Trinity Mosaic Bench Project began.

I have received so much support from my church family with this project. Maritza, the woman in charge of the Sunday School, helped me brainstorm how we could connect the project to community outreach. Pastor Paul kept announcements about it in the bulletin and offered church funding for supplies. Chris, our gardener, helped me set up the space. Kelsey, my co-worker at Free Arts grouted them with me. We had 9 people come to learn how to do mosaics and they did an amazing job on the designs, especially considering they had to keep the tiles level so the benches would still be comfortable to sit on! Artists teamed up into 3 groups of 3 for each bench:

Lisa, Maritza and Hilda worked on the Trinity Bench. The symbol in the middle represents our Christian faith and the mystery of God being 3-in-1. The bridges of different colors coming from each corner represent people gathering from all walks of life.


Susan, Hawa and Kelsey worked on the Cross Bench. The cross is anchored in rock (this one is actually made of all stone tile instead of ceramic) and the large stones in each corner represent our mission to spread the message of God’s love to the four corners of the world. It’s currently being used as the altar for the outside services held each Tuesday in the summer.


Rebecca, Hinston and Margaret worked on the Unity Bench. They were inspired by our church’s nickname, “The Welcome Place” and included a Muslim crescent, Jewish star, Christian cross, and another symbol used to represent the Trinity. It goes back to our trip to Israel, our original inspiration for this project. There, the 3 monotheistic religions rarely get along. In a place as diverse as Queens, we’re proud to welcome anyone and everyone into our family and hope that the benches help show that.


After all of that work, we still have tiles left! It’s like the feeding of the 5000…we seem to have a never-ending supply that looks like more than what we started with. Between an excess of tile and the success of this project, we’ve started work on another mosaic that involves children in the congregation. More news on that later!

Art from the Heart

We at Free Arts NYC held our annual Art from the Heart student exhibit in June at the Bronx Art Museum. There were 400 youth and families in attendance! The exhibition showcased work by youth in all four of the programs. I was thrilled to be able to exhibit some of the mosaics created by Arts Mentoring Program (AMP) students – they worked together to put together a mosaic of mosiacs! We featured it as a floor installation – I love how the middle spells out “Free Arts Rocks!”

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