Community mosaics: Carrie Reichardt’s story
Published: 29 Jan 2019
Artist and ceramicist Carrie Reichardt travelled to Chile and Mexico in 2014 to learn from artists who were involving members of the public in the creation of mosaics. Her Fellowship led to the formation of an international network of artists working in mosaics and, since her return, she has led many projects involving people in the creation of mosaics in their local communities.
“People love mosaics. Everyone can produce something that people like, because you’re constructing something out of pieces that are beautiful to begin with. When you’re working with a medium that everyone can have a go at, you can really bring people together.” – Carrie Reichardt
Carrie has been working with mosaics since 1998. During this time, she came across Chilean artist Isidora Paz López. Carrie was amazed to learn about Paz López’s achievements in Puento Alto, Chile, creating high-quality mosaics with people with little or no experience. During 2011 and 2012, Paz López and her team covered 4,000 square metres of public space, including the walls and pillars of a metro station, with mosaics.
Below: Carrie, left, with Isidora Paz López
In 2014 Carrie travelled to Chile on a Churchill Fellowship to work alongside Paz López and her team. Carrie was struck not only by how beautiful their work was, but also by how their art represented the local flora and fauna.
Before Carrie arrived in Chile, she and Paz López had talked about the importance of holding an international symposium of mosaic artists. Carrie’s letter confirming her award of a Churchill Fellowship was presented to the Mayor of Puento Alto, and this helped to secure funding for Paz López to hold a mosaic symposium. Sixty mosaic artists from around the world, including 12 from the UK, were each given USD 1,000 to fly to Chile and take part. They went to assist Paz López and 20 Chilean artists to cover the town hall of Puento Alto in mosaics. This event has created a global network of mosaic artists, who share skills with each other and have worked together on mosaic projects around the world.
Below: Carrie, left, covers Puento Alto's town hall in mosaics
Carrie’s Fellowship also saw her travel to Mexico to work alongside artist and community organiser Oscar Perez. Carrie travelled on a minibus with Perez and his team, visiting schools in rural Mexico and running workshops on mosaics. The students were some of the poorest people Carrie had ever met, but she was amazed by their enthusiasm and artistic ability.
The Fellowship has deepened Carrie’s commitment to public art that focuses on people’s history and involves communities during its design and construction.
“Often we don’t have much say in what our surroundings look like. When local people get to make decisions about public art in their area, it’s empowering and makes them feel a part of their community. When art actually reflects the heritage of the local community, the effect is even greater.” – Carrie Reichardt
Following her travels, Carrie has led a series of art projects in the UK involving local communities. She is determined to create work that is highly skilled and challenges perceptions of community art as low quality.
Below: the South Acton Tree of Life
In 2017 she completed the South Acton Tree of Life, a 24-square-foot ceramic tapestry that depicts the social, community and cultural history of this area of West London. As part of this project, two young local artists received mentoring and worked as an integral part of the team.
In 2018, Carrie was involved in the Nuart Street Art Festival in Aberdeen, an event that provides a platform for local, national and international artists to showcase their work, whilst inspiring local artists. Carrie ran community workshops and produced several site-specific ceramic murals.
Below: a mosaic mural made with Aberdeen locals during Nuart Street Art Festival
Most recently, Carrie completed a large ceramic mural for the courtyard of the Royal Brompton Hospital in London, in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the NHS. The piece contained over 150 ceramic hearts made by staff from the hospital, as well as patients and their families and friends.
In March 2019, Carrie will reunite with Paz López for a new mosaic project in Germany. Carrie will be joining over 50 artists from 20 different countries that are coming together again to assist Paz López. Around 30 artists who attended the symposium in Chile will take part in this event, demonstrating the lasting impact of Carrie’s Fellowship not just on her, but on many other artists too.