Monday, March 17, 2014

Villas at Gower Mosaics

Today's mosaics were built by Piece-by-Piece, an organization founded to give the homeless and inner-city poor some supplemental income. It quickly became much more. Professional artists and art teachers come in and lead workshops, training folks young and old in mosaic arts, and many of those students are now selling their own creations.

The art focuses on recyclable projects, and there are plans to expand classes to include other art forms, not just mosaics.

The site of today's mosaic is the Villas at Gower--an apartment building conceived and raised as transitional housing for at-risk youth and families--the kind of place you'd expect to be seriously ugly. But of course it's not.

So when the chance came to create mosaic art to adorn the Villas at Gower in Hollywood, an element of synchroncity was in play. Here was an opportunity for the freshly-trained artists, some of them recently homeless themselves, to work on a big project that benefited at-risk youth and adults--some of whom were also recently homeless.

The picture below left (down a bit) shows the artwork--vines with leaves, bolted to the building. The leaves are actually mosaics of flowers--the photo left shows them being assembled at Piece by Piece.

Most of these pictures came from the Piece by Piece blog and website.

Instructors / artists Luz Mack Durini and Dawn Mendelson laid out the design and others contributed to fine-tune it. It took a year of paperwork before fabrication of the mosaics could even begin, but once the work started the team of mosaicists came in twice a week to assemble the pieces.

The 3-D leaves started with high-density foam shapes, reinforced by a skeleton and covered with layers of concrete and fiberglass mesh.Sculptor Sherri Warner Hunter designed all that, and helped students work with the shapes, and artist Matt Doolin of Topanga Art Tile came in to demonstrate how to make delicate-looking flower petals from clay.

In the end, over 15,000 bits of ceramic were hand cut and used. Piece by Piece then worked with the builders and specialists who bolted the vines and leaves into place.

The building itself as well as the art project was originally funded by the California Hollywood Redevelopment Agency, but that went bye-bye. PATH Ventures and A Community of Friends stepped in as the developers. PATH Ventures is now the lead service provider for the buildings' occupants, which means they are not only the managers but also coordinate outreach, volunteers, medical & dental services, employment and training--the works.

The Villas at Gower opened in 2012 and offers over 70 apartments, from studios to suites, to families and individuals who are either homeless or have special needs, and whose income falls far, far below the median income of the area. The building features lots of areas designed to foster community--brightly lit community rooms, and enclosed patios where the mosaics are visible.

The LEED-platinum certified building was built by KFA (Killefer Flammang Architects) a firm specializing in public buildings, and the picture  below came from their website. The cost of this project was $20 million.

By an odd coincidence, they also built apartments in Los Angeles with the name of "Mosaic," but those do not have mosaics on them.