Vision to Reality Grant: A Collaborative Mosaic

This is a guest post by  Maria Falgoust and Eli Hetko

All the hard work that went into making the mosaic really paid off!

In 2019, ISB Head Librarian Maria Falgoust won AISL’s “Vision to Reality” award. The award’s purpose was to dream up a project “to bring visibility to your library, and help you make your vision a reality”. At ISB, our ultimate goal was to collaborate with students and community members to create a an eye-catching mosaic to celebrating literacy that would draw visitors to the International School of Brooklyn’s library.

In the fall, Maria met with members of the art department and an artistic library committee co-chair to sketch out a plan for the project. Our team of collaborators excitedly agreed to host a school-wide design contest, and determined all the associated logistics (contest guidelines, communications, timelines, etc.).

In mid-December 2019, the Library launched the project by announcing a contest seeking design ideas for a beautiful mosaic that would direct people to the library, express the love of the library and multilingual literacy. We opened the contest to students in 3rd through 8th grades and dozens of entrants took part in the contest. Maria and Eli announced the contest in our library classes and the Booklets, our middle school library club, promoted it by making advisor announcements and hanging posters throughout the school.

Students submitted dozens of sketches, including this imaginative composition

A panel of judges, consisting of an art teacher, a design teacher, a parent Library Committee member, a senior administrator, a middle school student, and Maria evaluated the sketches for creativity of design, legibility, and feasibility. The pool of submissions was so strong that the judges decided to incorporate elements from four different images into a final product. The winning designs were unveiled via slide-show at a lower school assembly, which also showcased all the impressive entries.  The winners were awarded a gift certificate from a local, independent bookstore. The winning entries incorporated the words “welcome,” “bienvenue” and “bienvenidos” with our school mascot (a dragon!) and an open book.

The judges(Kent, Maria and Carolina) evaluate sketches entered into the mosaic design contest

Winning designs and runners-up were announced by Carolina during a Lower School assembly

Beginning in late January, Maria, an art teacher, parent volunteers, and a mix of student volunteers from grades 3-8, met in the art room after school to work on the mosaic. Steps in the mosaic-making process were carefully demonstrated and carried out. First, students mixed paints and painted ceramic tiles according to the color scheme of the design. Next, tiles were glazed and fired by the art teacher. The following week, the vibrant tiles were smashed into smaller, asymmetrical pieces: this was an exhilarating part of the process for most of the students who were decked out with safety goggles courtesy of our science department! During the following sessions, the pieces were sorted by color, then divided into sections to create a large-scale rendering of the design. It was similar to a puzzle – a fun challenge! 

Students worked together on every step of assembling the mosaic

We were on target to complete our mosaic the week all NYC schools were shut down. Nevertheless, Maria and Kent were determined to see the project through and have it installed by the first day of school to serve as a bright spot in the strangest school year in decades. To complete the final touch, Kent grouted the tiles inside a custom-made wooden frame he built before expertly installing the mosaic right in the nick of time!

It was fun preparing the materials!

Ultimately, the mosaic turned out to be as much about the process as it was about the product. It was truly a community effort and labor of love. Students and library staff worked diligently throughout every stage of the process and had a lot of fun along the way. ISB Parent Kent Matricardi and art teacher Carolina Bermudez’s hard work, artistic expertise, and skill were fundamental to the success of the project.

A demonstration of how to paint ceramic tiles

Carolina guides the students while Joe Santos, the Head of School pops by to see the action.

After painting, firing, and smashing, the tile fragments were ready for assembly

When asked for their impressions about the mosaic, students said:

  • Maelie: “I think the mosaic will be a really nice addition to the library, and it will make more people come in because it will be so beautiful and welcoming”
  • Leana: “It will make people think that the Learning Commons is a great place to go for reading and studying”
  • Emma: “I enjoyed painting the tiles and putting together the mosaic”

Our mosaic project was a fantastic experience as it brought students from various grade levels together to work towards a common goal. As a librarian, it was a fulfilling experience to collaborate with members of the community and such fun to work with students outside of the library! Thank you, AISL for the opportunity to bring our dream to fruition. It will bring joy and inspiration for many years to come.

Mosaic in Progress

Students worked together on every step of assembling the mosaic.

One thought on “Vision to Reality Grant: A Collaborative Mosaic

  1. I love everything about this! What a memory for the students and a fun addition for the library. This is a model for collaboration!

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