For the past six years, I have been doing residencies, mostly in schools and through the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. We determine the project, usually to be completed in ten or twenty school days. Then I take in sheets of glass, tools, and cement board. If the school has kilns, we fire them up to make fused glass tiles. With very few exceptions, the people I work with have never had a lick of experience working with glass. Most projects involve around 100-150 people but around ten to twenty-five at a time. The participants range from kindergarten to high school, some of them with special needs, or considered at risk. Some participants have been mentally ill adults, and prisoners in a max security prison (no glass in that one!) In each of about twenty projects so far, every group has made beautiful art.
The feedback from these projects has been overwhelmingly positive. The objective is not to make mosaicists out of these people, but rather to provide a fun way to improve their collaborating and improvising skills. There are so many tasks within the projects and all have to be completed within our contracted time frame. Participants are always surprised at how well they have done and each project has left people impressed with themselves, building self-esteem.
For me, the greatest thing is to see kids realize that there are many ways to make a living. It is possible to do something that you absolutely love and figure out ways to make money doing so. I live my dream.
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