Creating Memories While Constructing a Lasting Tribute During the 2017 Mosaic Marathon


Finished mosaic mural
Finished mosaic mural created by the Society of American Mosaic Artists
Photo: Sue Majewski

2017 Mosaic Marathon

Mural created at the Society of American Mosaic Artists (SAMA) Annual Conference, Detroit, MI; and installed May 8, 2017 at the Children's Hospital of Michigan

When you have a friend like mine, one that inspires and impresses you with her kindness, whimsy, exactitude, and infallible attitude, you tend to stick close. Knowing every time you're together, you teach each other about life, love, and mosaics. What could be better? 


Then this wonderful friend starts talking crazy about the 2017 SAMA American Mosaic Summit in Detroit. “I'm gonna do it! I may be going through the most intense personal issues right now, but, by golly, I'm gonna make this happen! I'm gonna devote all my efforts into making this a reality. Are you coming along?" Really, who could hesitate?! 
Crazy talk, maybe. But how can you not support Joan Schwartz when she looks you right in the eye and says “I really could use your help here.” Okay, I’m in. What’s it gonna take? “I need you to head up the Mosaic Marathon.” Al-righty!

Joan Verdiano
Joan Verdiano


My good friend, Detroit artist Grace Serra, has worked as a public art coordinator and art educator for almost 30 years. She began the Children's Hospital of Michigan (CHM) Healing Arts Program in 2004, and listened carefully when I described a project that about 250 of my closest, most talented friends could work on together, ultimately donating the handmade piece to a final recipient. 
She guided me to CHM (dedicated since 1886 to providing the highest quality of care to children and adolescents and the first children's hospital in the state) which was building a new emergency entrance that included a long, blank wall, which would be viewed by children coming out of triage and into bays for further treatment and evaluation. It was decided that by creating an uplifting subject, they might be calmed as they continued their journey to improved health. The illustrative theme throughout CHM is safari animals. During my first visit there I found beautiful, colorful murals of different wild animals at each level of the parking structure. In the hospital, each floor is designated by a different animal. Using this information, I drew up a cartoon based on the available 48” tall by 96” wide space.
The Mosaics Artists of Michigan (MAM) is a unique group of like-minded folks from all over our beautiful state. The combination of talent, creativity, and personality is evident at every second-Saturday meeting. Every other year or so, we take on a project—a collaboration— for donation. So when I started calculating the amount of work involved in producing this mural, I knew I could count on our group to get things done.
First, we prepared the substrate by tracing the full-sized patterns on three panels of wallboard with marker. Then, we used a fourth sheet to cut out additional pieces that would define certain aspects by emphasizing depth. I used my jigsaw, set at a 45-degree angle, to cut them out, after which they were adhered with thinset to the base panels. Many of our members were there in the final hours of preparations, helping to ensure a result we were all proud of. Their help and devotion will always be remembered.
Kim Wozniak of Wit’ and donated all of the Mexican smalti. In estimating colors and quantities beforehand, I found it was easiest to simply order mixes—blue mix for the sky, green mix for leaves, etc. Kim also donated her personally designed frames for the finished panels which her son, Jesse, helped assemble. 
LATICRETE International also sponsored the Mosaic Marathon, donating SPECTRALOCK® PRO Grout (epoxy grout), as well as Glass Tile Adhesive (non-sag, polymer fortified adhesive mortar that is specifically formulated for use in glass tile applications), which was individually mixed and used to apply the smalti to the wallboard panels. 
Starting Tuesday, May 2, I set everything up in the Duluth Conference Room of the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center and we were officially ready for our volunteers to begin the Marathon.

Photo by Tim Stassines
Photo by Tim Stassines 


The atmosphere was one that Marathon volunteers have come to expect—sharing techniques, making new acquaintances, catching up with old friends, and mingling the sound of laughter with the snapping of tiles. We worked long, hard hours, determined to complete it on time. And we did!

 Photo by Tim Stassines
Photo by Tim Stassines 

I am so very proud of this project. From start to finish I was honored and humbled by the faith everyone had in us and the fabulous time we had, creating memories while constructing a lasting tribute from our talented SAMA friends to our city. What a great experience—definitely a bucket list week for me! Meeting my ‘mosaic crushes’ and spending time connecting with creative personalities from all over the world! 

Sue Majewski sits in front of the finished piece Photo by Tim Stassines
Sue Majewski sits in front of the finished piece
Photo by Tim Stassines

Much gratitude and positive, creative energy from me to all of the productive, imaginative souls we were able to share our time with. 
Born and raised on the east side of Detroit, Sue Majewski completed a graphics degree at Wayne State University. Art has always been a passion and creating mosaics was an easy transition, having dabbled in every other media available. “Once I created my first mosaic, I knew I was hooked.” Acquiring a kiln enabled Sue to create her own handbuilt pieces, offering even more variety to her style.
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