Mosaics have been a popular form of art for thousands of years, and their lasting power can be seen in the ancient Greek and Roman portraits and mythological scenes still on display today. This art is created by taking many small pieces of stone and glass and arranging them to make a large, cohesive piece of art. It’s a medium that requires dedication, vision and many man hours.
For one Philadelphia Arts in Education Partnership Teaching Artist, Baily Cypress, the process of making a mosaic is just as beautiful as the end result.
“[Students of] all different ages have the same reaction,” when they’re working on a mosaic, Cypress says. “Everyone gets this expression that comes over their face when they realize it…their part in the collaborativeness and the lastingness of it.”
Cypress works as a PAEP Teaching Artist in partnership with another artist, Julie Deery. The pair met at the University of the Arts, where Cypress graduated with her Bachelors of Fine Artsdegree. Cypress later went on to earn her Masters degree from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
Together, over the past seven years, they’ve helped guide students in creating permanent mosaics in schools in the Lower Merion School District, about half an hour drive from Philadelphia, as well as schools in the city.
With each new group of children, and each new mosaic, Cypress and Deery follow a process to ensure that the final product reflects the inner workings of the school’s children.
“First, we ask the administration to have a theme,” Cypress explains. With the theme in mind, Cypress and Deery ask the children to brainstorm; to tell them anything that sparks their imagination.
After several brainstorming sessions, Cypress and Deery take a look at the ideas and figure out where the overlapping ideas are, and with that direction, the children draw their vision of the end mosaic.
Cypress and Deery then create a rendition for the group to follow, and then the hands-on work begins.
“The kids break the tile; the older kids, they cut stained glass,” Cypress says. “Everybody puts tiles on the wall, and everyone participates in the grouting.”
The end products are colorful, vivid mosaics that only a child’s imagination could create. “It’s their imagery, from beginning to end,” Cypress says.
The most satisfying part for Cypress? “I really like how empowered the kids are through the process of doing it,” she says. “It makes an impact.”