Harriet Tubman Memorial Mosaic

It was high-time for a portrait of Harriet Tubman to be featured front & center in one of my Art for Auburn community mosaic projects.

After gratefully securing another round of NYSCA funding, I got Genesee Center property manager Pete Marshall onboard for allowing us to install on the building’s south facing brick wall. The “Genesee Center” lettering was white & dirty, so I purchased some royal blue paint to spruce them up, and other broken lettering was removed below.

Next, I contacted artist Tony Clubine, who had done various mural projects downtown, and even depicted Tubman in one of them. To do Tubman justice, we decided an oval painted portrait created on board, would be the best approach. Tony did a beautiful job replicating her likeness & courageous energy, and the ornate gold frame adds the stately touch we were after. I then turned to ceramic artist Jen Gandee to duplicate the portrait frame design in tile, to visually border and also secure the entire work.

For the mosaic, I wanted the palette to be very colorful, yet chose to stay away from using any mirror or reflective elements. Without having to adhere to a background design, the work was just plain fun! People could do exactly what they wished, just keeping the colors varied. For the grout color, there was no question in my mind we needed to use a majestic purple. Long-time partner in art Dave Tobin led the process for making the thin set & grout, and helping train the volunteers.

People came out in droves to help & watch the install, and working on a south facing wall was hot, drying time was super short, yet the process went fast. Big thanks to Pete & his team for installing the lighting above so it shines at night. I still can’t help but smile wide every time I go by this piece, and I swear Tubman is smiling right back at me!

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