md-mosaic-seniors-p-hairston

md-mosaic-seniors-p-hairston (Kim Hairston, Baltimore Sun / April 12, 2012)

A mosaic of multi-colored flowers spilling out of a silvery vase fills a wall at the entry to the new Green House Residences at Stadium Place in the city. Tiles of varying hues and textures form a perky yellow sunflower, a brilliant red rose, delicate pink blossoms and splashes of green and lilac.

When Gina Rozier last saw the piece, it was a jumble of glass, granite and stones. Rozier, who will be working in the four-story senior-care center, was one of about 100 volunteers who put the mosaic together over the past several months.

"I did the purple stems," Rozier said as she gently traced the tiles Thursday. "I am not artistic at all, but this was the simplest thing to do."

Art with a Heart, a nonprofit that brings art programs to needy city residents, directed the volunteers as they took the piece from a concept drawing to a 6-foot-tall, 9-foot-wide mosaic. The finished work arrived last week in two 40-pound pieces that were attached with mortar to a wall in the foyer of the $12 million facility and then grouted together to form a seamless whole.

The mosaic faces a floor-to-ceiling window in the foyer and greets those arriving even before they walk through the front door.

"I love this setting!" said Randi A. Pupkin, director of Art with a Heart. "We designed this mosaic to be a permanent image that reflects the mission of Green House Residences. We chose flowers growing and blooming. It is much more alive than a vase of fresh flowers that will soon fade."

The residence is the latest building at Stadium Place, an elderly-housing complex built by Govans Ecumenical Development Corp. on the 33rd Street grounds of the former Memorial Stadium. The first residents of Green House moved in last week, and the building will be dedicated Thursday.

"You are actually standing in the first-base-side seats," said Mitchell Posner, executive director of GEDCO, which works to provide affordable housing and services to needy city residents and will have offices in the terrace level of the new building.

"The mural is the right size for the right space, and its colors work with the room," he said.

Fashioned mostly from recycled materials in many colors and textures, the mosaic also represents the diversity of the 49 people who will call the residences home, Pupkin said. Amber and granite pieces frame the picture, which is filled with stones covered in confetti, bits of glass and mirror, even large faux pearls that form astral-like petals.

"We really mixed up the textures," Pupkin said. "You can touch it."

Volunteers, many of them students at Loyola and Johns Hopkins universities and staff at the Govans group, worked on the mosaic in Art with a Heart's Castle in Keswick, its Hampden offices and studios, Posner said. He pointed to the tiny flowers he added to the piece.

Jenny Hyle, community service coordinator at Art with a Heart, said mosaic-making embodies the organization's emphasis on team effort and reusing materials. She said she had little difficulty teaching tiling and grouting to her mostly untrained artists.

"It's a forgiving art form, like putting a jigsaw puzzle together," she said.

Posner called it an ideal accessory for a home with a nurturing environment, designed to be conducive to the best mental and physical health of its residents. "We have done everything we can to make this building look and feel like a home," he said.

Pupkin said the mural is one of many volunteers have made in "our effort to beautify everything we can."

Art with a Heart plans its next mosaic-making session during its Home Is Where the HeART Is fundraiser May 12 at the organization's Castle, 3355 Keswick Road. Organizers hope to draw about 300 guests, who can purchase and place tiles on the piece. That mosaic, which does not have a designated recipient, might come together in just one evening, Pupkin said.

mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

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