|The garden will be comprised of six main components: a 50-foot x 60-foot crab labyrinth with mosaic walking paths surrounded by herbs; a 16-foot 3-tiered waterfall; a large sandpit with a rowboat play feature (with sand, lily pad mosaics to hop along, grasses to simulate reeds, boulders, and, if I can get one donated, a piling with nautical rope to moor the boat); a smaller ADA accessible sandpit for those with handicaps but also for introspective/non-social play, with buried marine fossils to unearth; a pollinator garden; a child’s faux meadow with a small amphitheater; and a stumpery with a fairy garden, and all kinds of magical things including, I hope, a small tree snag planted upside down so that its roots become the canopy, fairy houses created by some talented local artists, and loose parts so that children can create their own fairy houses.
How, you ask, am I going to create all of these things, including so many other ideas I have in mind? Well, that’s what I wondered too, especially with a budget of only $4,000, but then I already knew what a great community I lived in. I began reaching out to the different area schools looking for artistic youth. My first priorities were to find artists to create mosaics for the walking path in the labyrinth and the materials needed to make them.
I approached the CFO of United Builder’s Supply, Jared Beaulieu, and he was amazing! He too went to UConn and he saw that I was, quite possibly, in over my head. (Was it that obvious?) He set about getting a team of people to help me from the masonry and tile departments. UBS ultimately donated about six pallets of porcelain tile and the materials needed to build the labyrinth itself, including permeable pavers, edging, adhesive, and grout. They also provided the know-how, explaining why we needed to use porcelain tiles for the outdoors and a certain type of adhesive and grout. That expertise and the materials allowed me to approach local schools starting with the administration.
Waterford High School Vice Principal, Alison Moger, immediately embraced the project and took action. Within minutes (literally!) Shelly Concascia, an amazingly generous art teacher, took on the task of teaching the art of mosaic to students from two of her classes and students in the National Art Honor Society. Ms. Concascia started the mosaic project a few weeks ago and the students have been creating their mosaics on mesh that we will adhere to the pavers before placing them in the labyrinth. Pavers with neutral colored mosaics will surround each individual piece of art to allow the eyes to rest as they move through the pathways. Each mosaic, both neutral and masterpiece, will help to create an utterly unique and beautiful labyrinth. Take a peek at what the students are working on below or in the gallery.
I want this labyrinth to be special, to invite children to not only walk its paths, but to look closer and explore the earth and plants at their feet. I also want beauty and art in the garden to engage and delight the children and other visitors. Mosaics invite touch and I think young children and adults alike will be drawn to the artwork and want to run their hands along it. The amazing part of this project is that the students are creating something for the community that will have a lasting impact. If they attend Avery Point, they can walk along the pathway and see their contribution or maybe one day take their own children to see it. They are learning a new medium and, at the same time, exposing others to this type of art.
About 175 linear feet of pavers (which will be a combination of 18” x 18”, 9”x 18″, and 9”x 9” pavers) are needed to create the pathways and the students needed many different tiles including a variety of colors which were more difficult to come by in porcelain tiles (unless you’re like me and, not by choice, still have pink bathroom tiles from the 1970s . . . but those aren’t even porcelain!). As such, we (including my dear friend Mary Ballachino who I will talk about in a later post) went in search of tiles. More tile was donated from Owen Coffey & Sons in Niantic, Old Lyme Stone, and Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Waterford. Without these donations and without Ms. Concascia taking on such a huge, laborious project, we wouldn’t have such an amazing piece of art in our community. I’m so thankful that Ms. Concascia was willing to embrace this project, teaching her students the art of mosaic making, and dealing with the constant breaking of tiles, grouting, and other challenges—even offering several days for students to finish up after school if they’re running behind. That kind of dedication makes me so proud of our teachers and our schools, but also of our students who I see putting so much effort into this project.
One more thanks to the WHS Administration and April Cairns, the Learning Through Service Coordinator, who have been so supportive of this project and are providing an opportunity for seniors to create additional mosaics during the upcoming testing day. That number of mosaics takes a heck of a lot of time and effort! I am so grateful for their support as well as the student’s willingness to participate.