Glass mosaic would add sparkle & shade to Community Center lobby

Gail Christofferson shows an almost completed panel for the Community Center mosaic. The panel was designed by Bowling Green High School students.

By DAVID DUPONT

BG Independent News

Gail Christofferson’s community mosaics are made from thousands of bits of glass, and by thousands of hours of work by hundreds of community members.

Some will trim and sort thumbnail-size bits of glass. Some will glue those down in preordained patterns. And some to create those designs.

When all is done, Christofferson hopes to have as many as 50 20-inch-by-20-inch glass mosaic panels. Those panels will provide an artistic solution to a problem at the Bowling Green Community Center’s lobby.

Now, explains Kristen Otley, the director of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, at certain times of day in certain seasons, the staff members working at the main desk are blinded by the sunshine.  That makes it difficult for those trying to serve the public during those times.

Right now there are shades up. But Otley envisioned something else.

Gail Christofferson works with Reagan Otley, left, and Maggie Otley, right, on a panel for the glass mosaic at Art in the Park in June.

Gail Christofferson works with Reagan Otley, left, and Maggie Otley, right, on a panel for the glass mosaic at Art in the Park in June.

She knew Christofferson from the workshops the artist has presented for Parks and Recreation. In 2011 and 2012 Christofferson facilitated the creation of a mural at the new Otsego Elementary school. Since then she’s turned to glass work full time and worked on about more 10 mosaic projects, as well as smaller work notably her mosaic guitars. Otley said they talked about it for a couple years. It always came down to where the money would come from.

Reagan Otley places a piece of glass onto the mosaic panel.

Reagan Otley places a piece of glass onto the mosaic panel.

They decided to team up with the Kiwanis Club, and working with Alisha Nenadovich, they requested funds from the Bowling Green Community Foundation.

It’s the kind of project the foundation likes, Otley said. Something that involves the whole community.

The mosaic project was awarded a $5,000 grant. That’s enough for 20 panels, Christofferson said. “Visually my ideal is 50 squares.”

She hopes to find donors to sponsor a square or two or several. The price is for $250 a single square with the price per square declining to five squares for $1,000.

She plans to send out a fundraising appeal in the fall.

After the summer, she’ll be able further gauge how far along the project is.

Those sponsoring the panels, can design them, subject to approval of Otley and the artist. (Logos are not permitted.) They can also help put them together.

The assembly is a community endeavor. That part of the project was kicked off at Art in the Park in June. The design began earlier.

Christofferson worked with high school art students to design some panels.  Several designs had to be rejected because they made explicit references to companies, and a few were too complicated to execute in a community setting. But a number will find their way into the project.

Christofferson then transfers the designs to plates of tempered glass. She marks out the areas and what color glass will go in that area.

Much of the glass is scrap acquired from Bigelow Glass in Findlay. That the project has this element of recycling and reuse makes it all the more fitting for the city, she said.

The Conneaut Art Club helped with sorting the pieces of glasses and nipping them to the proper size. That’s a job that needs a lot of hands to accomplish. “If I did all that, my hands would probably fall off.”

Then when it comes time to assemble, she applies an adhesive, and people patch together jigsaw pieces of glass. After a panel is done, she will apply the grout. “That pulls it all together,” Christofferson said.

“People are super jazzed in being involved in a permanent art installation. Not only will they see beautiful art, but they have ownership in it.”

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That process was important in her initial mosaic, the artist said. A graduate of Bowling Green State University with a degree in graphic design, she had been working doing public relations for the district and had been working with glass mosaics with Girl Scouts.

The district was consolidating three elementary schools into one building, and that caused hard feelings within the district.

The mosaic symbolized the community pulling together. Christofferson went out into the community to enlist volunteers to assemble the 20-foot-by-7-foot work. “We went to them,” she said. Rather than expecting people to come to events specifically geared toward the mosaic, she set up shop at the Fire Department cookout and other events that people were already attending.

And that’s the strategy with the Bowling Green project as well. Christofferson will be on hand at the movie in the parks nights July 19 and Aug. 9. Then she plans to range out to service clubs, the senior center, Woodlane, and programs for at-risk youth. She wants the mosaic to be the product of everyone, from 5 to 95, in the community.

At Art in the Parks, the Aktion Club, a group from Woodlane, was on hand sorting glass. “Here’s group of community members you may not pay attention to,” she said.

“I feel strongly that part of premise of doing a community-based mural is to make sure we engage with at-risk community members as well,” she said.

Having so many hands contributing makes it all the more fitting for the community center, Otley said. For years to come people will be able to point to mosaic and say, “I helped make that.”

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