Spending an afternoon with local artist Gail Christofferson in an oversized garage-turned-studio provides a visual buffet of glittering cut glass along with a pleasant earful of social awareness. Enthusiastic and caring, Gail is a force of nature, a cool breeze of care to quell social misunderstanding.
Her latest project, a large-scale mosaic set to be installed in July at 411 N. Michigan Ave. in downtown Toledo, is a joint effort with A Renewed Mind, a local mental healthcare provider. Funded by a grant through the Toledo Community Foundation and the David and Laura Lovell Group, the mosaic, “Pieces to Peace”—a decidedly appropriate title—has been in the works for the better part of a year.
The call for a community work to encourage conversation concerning the stigma associated with mental health disorders inspired Gail to establish the partnership and pursue the work with vigor. Considering mental health issues and their effects, including homelessness in the Toledo area, Gail and A Renewed Mind joined the two issues while concepting the artwork and the Toledo Community Foundation got involved.
The accepted design for the mosaic mural is a stylized map, working its way through the ramifications of mental health related outcomes which includes a tree, inferring room for growth and the search for health. Serendipitous to the message is a mosaic—repurposing fractured glass to form a new, whole, and complete image. The same can, and often does, happen with life.
Working as a community
The mosaic was created with more than 20 feet of panels laid out. With the assistance of Toledo Street newspaper vendors, large sheets of glass were broken into hundreds of thousands of pieces, all organized by color. As members of our community who are themselves homeless, the vendors’ work on the mosaic provided a paid job and another opportunity to give back.
Over 200 community members, from all demographic and social backgrounds, worked on the mosaic. Work stations were set up at the Toledo Lucas County Public Library, the Cherry Street Mission, YMCA Family House, and Tent City. After seven weeks, two sessions a week, utilizing a number of volunteers, the work is nearly complete.
The cathartic and therapeutic properties of working on a mosaic are vast. Gail calls it being in the “the groove.” The idea is that broken lives are universal. Death, divorce, addictions, mental deficiencies, homelessness—the list goes on—make up the drama of life. To lay that drama to rest for a few moments, thoughts turn to, “Which piece can I get to fit into this spot?”
See where the pieces fit when the final installation of “Pieces to Peace” debuts at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Adams Street in early July.