We are beyond excited to share the journey from start to finish of this "Alive and Well" custom tile mural. This project represents community in so many beautiful ways that we are so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of. Located at the University of Minnesota Broadway Family Clinic in North Minneapolis, our tile artisans worked endlessly to bring to life the the artistic vision of Christopher Harrison.
The UMP Family Clinic
The University of Minnesota Broadway Family Clinic aka UMP located in North Minneapolis does so much good for the their community. They are family physicians and educators who immensely care and who are unbudgingly there for all people of the North community in sickness and in health, wellness or injury. The clinic was damaged in the riots following the murder of George Floyd and they were forced to temporarily close their doors for the safety of their staff and patients. Shortly after, the clinic stated that there was no anger towards the protestors and rioters who damaged the clinic. There was only anger that their predominately Black community of North Minneapolis has been ignored and dismissed for decades and that it required generations of toxic rage overflowing to get the attention of those in power. Andrea Westby and Renee Crichlow of UMP in North Minneapolis stated,
“Justice and accountability are more valuable than property. And as for us, we aren’t leaving. We will continue to work in and with our community in the ways we can. We have been here to care for a vibrant and thriving North Minneapolis, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”
For more on their journey, visit their inspiring post "From the Ashes"
Renee Crichlow and Andrea Westby at a community garden across the street from their North Minneapolis clinic.
Photography by Nancy Musinguzi via From the Ashes
Our mover and shaker, Mercedes Austin, was on the board of the Northside Arts Collective in her early years plus our first studio space was just around the corner from the UMP Broadway clinic. She contacted Studio BV to learn where we could be of service to fuel their Design Forward pro bono work and UMP was first project on the drawing tables. After learning details about what UMP meant for the community, she knew this project would be something special - something that came from the heart. She wanted it to be a foundation of togetherness for the clinic that radiated the passion of the North Minneapolis community in every square foot. With that notion, she had the idea to bring a community artist's vision to life through tile. Her first and only call was to visual artist Christopher Harrison who was on board from the beginning.
Street Artwork by Christopher Harrison.
Christopher has always been a leader in the community so working with him was a no brainer for this project. He has been creating inspiring public art since Mercedes first met him through the Northside Arts Collective and her dream was to someday commission him. Christopher’s work represents the diversity of cultures and philosophies by using abstracted biomorphic shapes, objects and graphics to tell stories of the Black experience. He says,
“I’m making this art right now because I feel it’s important to share the anecdotes of struggle and perseverance that have defined the Black race in concrete and impactful way. The world to me seems to have a short attention span, repeating destructive tendencies constantly. I see my work as a tool for looking back to move forward, to confront the questions head-on of how to grasp our shared humanity through the lens of Black existence.”
With this as the driving force coupled with the clinic’s desire to be a safe place for dialogue about wellness and wellbeing for the community, Christopher dreamt up some ideas for the mural.
Christopher Harrison's Original Drawings "Alive and Well" and "Helping Hands"
After many conversations, we landed on the “Alive and Well" drawing because this mural was to be part of a statement that the clinic could rise up even better than it was before and this artwork depicted that perfectly. Christopher's vision for this mural was inspired by Leonardo DaVinci's "Vitruvian Man" drawing. For him it represents the ideal state of health and wellness through the pursuit of a balanced life. He shows two figures that have hearts in the center of their chests, hence symbolizing the clinic as a "life center" of health and well-being.
After receiving drawings from Christopher, Mercedes envisioned the art taking up the entire wall. She thought that if Christopher could treat the entire wall as his canvas, then we would have a true adventure of color and texture to make this a community anchor and genuine gift for the clinic. And that's exactly what we got. Our designers took Christopher's original drawing and ran with it to create a digital rendering that everyone was excited about. The contrasting color, mosaic detail, variation of texture, and combination of shapes was the perfect depiction of Christopher's driving force behind his art.
Bringing it To Life
As one can imagine, bringing a project like this to life comes with many ups and downs. Working this project into our already packed schedule was a challenge, but our team is so talented in so many ways that it was a pretty flawless process. We also bargained for a longer timeline with the clinic to ensure artistic integrity for the roll out of this piece. The first step in this process is isolating which of our standard shapes work best for the space along with breaking up the different glaze colors of the design. Our goal was to add movement by varying the shapes across the mural. We considered different sizes of tile, variation in the glaze colors, and overall depth of the contrasting hues to turn the artists’ vision into a living mosaic.
When laying out a large-scale custom piece like this we take great care in creating a life-size template on which the tile will be custom-cut and glued onto mesh. In this particular project we wanted to get as many of our tile artisans to have a hand in it as possible, considering the message and overall spirit of this undertaking. In the end over 15 tile artisans laid out, marked, cut, and/or edge-glazed this mural.
We are so grateful for all the support and helping hands throughout this process. Creating custom community murals is a new initiative for us and no small effort in the process goes unnoticed. We can't begin to express the gratitude for the amount of passion and work our team put into this. From hand cutting, glazing, firing and laying out this masterpiece tile by tile, it means the world to us to have a team who is ready, willing and able to make it happen.
On top of this, we are forever grateful for Gaffer Photography and Studio BV who documented the installation process with the help from our friends at Satori Tile. We appreciate The Opus Group for making sure there was proper ventilation so that we could install safely according to COVID-19 guidelines. And last but certainly not least, thank you to Christopher Harrison for dreaming up this amazing work of art and to the UMP Broadway Clinic for giving us the opportunity to be a part of your space. This project will forever be near and dear to our hearts because of the amount of togetherness and community we've felt from the beginning.
Videography and Photography by Gaffer Photography
More to Come
Not only did this project turn out visually inspiring but it impacted our team in a much deeper way. We've always been a hands on, collaborative company that thrives off of creativity and teamwork but this mural took that to the next level. It gave our team something meaningful to create together and to be apart of within the community. It’s one thing to want to help your community personally but it’s entirely another to have that become part of your job. We are so excited that our newly birthed Community Division is growing and truly bringing to life our mission of enhancing the world one handmade tile at a time. Our amazing leader, Mercedes, recognizes that it's a huge challenge to want this along with all the other financial sides of the business. But she has led our company with such determination this past year and has proven that it's possible to have both. She says,
"like anything you just have to do it, learn and continue to bring your intentions to life. Then build upon the good and retire the things that didn't work. Ergonomically our team has some work to do to be able to execute a project of this scale. Many of us had sore muscles… but the pride of being a part of something like this helped navigate through the physical recovery. We are ready to work on another community-building project like this, hands-down."
To sum it up, it's all a learning experience and we are learning more and more about how to be a community driven company that lifts each other up and creates meaningful moments together. We are so excited to continue down this journey and to have such an amazing community to learn with and grow with everyday.
If you're interested in a custom tile mural, we would also love to hear what inspires you! Tell us more about your future project and get the ball rolling.
The post Alive and Well Tile Mural appeared first on Artisan Tile Company: Handmade Ceramic Tiles by Mercury Mosaics.