History Connection: Preserving Bryant's 'participatory public art'
Bryant Elementary School has been an indoor and outdoor art gallery for years, displaying mosaic tile murals guided by artists Lynn Takata and Mark Brody and individual tile art created by students under the direction of various Bryant teachers.
Brody and his students created the free-standing panel at the front of the school; Takata's students crafted the interior mosaic murals that adorned a library wall and a wall adjacent to the library. Dozens of student tiles greeted visitors outside.
With the school scheduled to be demolished in the coming weeks to make room for a new Lakeridge Junior High, there has been much discussion about preserving the mosaic art pieces and the individual tiles. Pieces from Takata's work are now in storage in hopes that they can be displayed again, but the individual student tiles on Bryant's outdoor walls cannot be saved, according to LOSD Communications Director Christine Moses.
Instead, the district is working with professional photographer Mario Gallucci and a company called Cedar House Media to post images of the tiles to a Flickr account, where they can then be downloaded or a request can be made to have the images reproduced in another medium.
Details of that process are still being worked out.
Under Takata's tutelage, Bryant students ages 8-13 worked collaboratively over a two-year period during the 1990s to create the two interior wall murals. Takata recalls that the overall theme for her murals was "Our Earth, Our Home," celebrating the diversity of nature in different countries.
How was this theme selected, and what were the objectives of the project?
"The process begins," Takata says, "by first choosing a site — a park, a wall, a column, a stairway or even a floor. The objectives were to create a tile mosaic based on a theme chosen by the class or teacher; to view mosaics from different distances; to understand how the eye mixes colors; to learn about elements of art while having fun; to arrange colors of tile into an original mosaic from their drawing; to use color and value to create contrast; and to express ideas in a new media."
Takata recently visited Bryant to discuss ideas with Nicole Nathan, executive director of the Arts Council of Lake Oswego, and LOSD project coordinator Jamie Harwood for preserving the mosaic's birds, fish, bear and other animals. Since the murals were screwed into the wall, she said, they could be removed without destroying the integrity of the art.
A suggestion was made that the murals could perhaps be reinstalled at another site or sites, such as the city's other elementary schools or the library. For now, the pieces will be stored by the district until a decision is made.
Takata offered to assist in selecting a location and to help with the installation. Because her design philosophy is having the public participate in the creation of the art, she says she feels strongly that the public should also be able to view it.
An award-winning artist with a degree in Art Education, Takata teaches national workshops in participatory public art using mosaics as the medium.
"I work with the community — in this case, students — to create the piece. It is a collaborative effort of many, Some of my projects have involved as many as 600 people — the Salem Peace Mosaic, Portland Parks and Rec, University of Minneapolis Masonic Children's Hospital, for example."
Brody, a 1987 graduate of Lewis & Clark College, is also an award-winning artist. Some of his work can be seen at the West Linn Public Library and the Shriners Hospitals for Children in Portland. He was the featured artist at the Lake Oswego Festival of The Arts' Special Exhibit in 2010.
Brody holds degrees in art (3D Metal Sculpture) and secondary education, but he jokes that his "real hands-on" degree was earned in construction when he decided to build a house with his wife while living in Taos, New Mexico.
He worked with Bryant students in 2008-09. The theme for the piece was "history."
"Mosaic art assembles the artistic elements with the enduring materials of construction to create works that last for decades," he writes on his website. "I was hooked after that first mosaic, and each new mosaic I begin is met with the same enthusiasm."
Brody describes his mosaics as the combination of shape, color, pattern and form.
"Although it is a metaphor for so many things, to me it is the perfect synthesis of my art training and my passion to build," he says. "I learned mosaic when building my first house. My effort was to use my artistic training to compose a mosaic which would become the focal point of a newly-constructed wall — a custom built-in. The materials that make mosaic — glass, stone, ceramic and cement — are all elements that are used in building."
Brody and Takata not only made significant contributions to the lives of many Bryant students, but to Lake Oswego and surrounding communities as well. Learn more about them at www.lynntakata.com and www.markbrodyart.com.