Kids create mosaic murals for new hospital to make other kids feel better.
Two eighth-graders at Baker Middle School in Troy know the waiting rooms and lengthy hallways at Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit intimately.
Regardless of the separate reasons they had to be there, both could find distractions in looking at other young faces, noticing the layout of the building and observing colorful artworks.
One of those students easily recalls seeing a Tree of Life mosaic installation. It was made and signed by patients encouraged to step away from illness by experimenting with the creative possibilities of artistry.
The young observer hadn’t mentioned the installation to classmates or visual arts teacher Linda Gealy until he joined a much larger mosaic project to enhance a facility under construction: Children’s Hospital of Michigan-Troy, David K. Page Building.
Eighteen schools across Oakland and Macomb counties were asked to merge artistic talents in making mosaic glass murals for placement around the outpatient structure to be completed by year-end at 350 W. Big Beaver.
The satellite, offering 24/7 emergency treatment and specialized services from surgery to imaging, was named in honor of the late hospital board member who served as chairman for nine years. Page also had been a board member for many Jewish organizations, including the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit.
Gail Rosenbloom Kaplan, who teaches art to patients at the Detroit hospital and has worked on art projects within the Jewish community, is supervising development of the murals. She has spent a day at each participating school, demonstrating mural-making skills to rotating classes of art students.
School district participation, based on student population counts, paired Kaplan with classroom teachers to help students master general art concepts while meeting community needs. Kaplan had asked the schools to come up with outdoor seasonal designs so patients undergoing treatment could feel closer to nature.
“Sixteen schools did murals devoted to one season, while a couple of schools did panels with four seasons,” said Kaplan, who also has created a mosaic installation for Friendship Circle in West Bloomfield.
“Each school sent me a design that was transferred, by drawing, to a 2- by 7-foot wood panel. The materials to cover the panels were organized before youngsters cut and glued the glass pieces.”
Before Kaplan arrived at Baker Middle School, Gealy asked her students to sketch designs for a panel depiction of winter. She chose the season thinking of the colors as peaceful, and she completed the final drawing inspired by the students’ sketches.
As the youngsters applied the small shards to their panel, they discussed how to use the different colors of glass — blues, pinks, purples — to achieve the shadings associated with the cold-weather months.
Kids Helping Kids
Earlier, they talked about the reasons for doing the project.
“I’m so impressed with how they were drawn to the idea of community,” Gealy said. “I believe kids sense when other kids are in need.”
Artist Dani Katsir partnered with Kaplan throughout the project. He prepared the glass for students by cutting 450 square feet of glass into thin strips. He also added his expertise during instruction at some of the schools.
“We taught the kids how to use tools to cut the glass into various shapes to execute their designs,” explained Katsir, who defines the material as magical because it reflects, refracts, diffuses and suffuses light. Katsir currently lives in India, where his wife is a Ford executive.
Kaplan also has had some school assistance from volunteer Mandy Stanford, mother of a brain tumor survivor treated at Children’s Hospital of Michigan. Stanford has observed the positive impact of being surrounded by colorful artwork as her daughter has gone on to be an art major.
The Page Building will have three floors, and the mosaics will be interspersed on columns with six panels per floor.
“At the end of the day at each participating school, we asked the art students to come back and see the progress that had been made on their school’s mural,” said Kaplan, who worked with students representing a range of grades.
“If I were to do one mural alone, it would take me a month. With the kids, it’s done in one day as 150 of them take their turns.”
Toward the end of the day at Baker, the eighth-graders who know the Detroit hospital personally agreed the project was fun. They liked trying a new set of skills, particularly knowing they could bring some happiness to viewers, whether patients or their loved ones.
The comment of one of those two middle school students seemed to fit right in with the ultimate goal of the hospital. He said, “Working on this mosaic has made me feel good.”
By Suzanne Chessler, Contributing Writer