One day last fall I was sitting on a bench with some other moms in the Children's Park in our neighborhood and I mentioned a trip to Vashon Island where I saw beautiful mosaics all over the playground at Ober Park. We talked about how nice it would be to do a project like that in our little park, how we could involve the kids in the creative process and how great it would be to have a visual reminder of their childhood. I mentioned that I had read a call for City of Renton Neighborhood Grant submissions in the the Renton Reporter and we talked about how great it would be if the city gave us money to make a mosaic. My friends encouraged me to apply and promised if I got the grant they would help me make the mosaic. So I did. And it was approved! The city of Renton awarded us $700 to install a one-of-a-kind mosaic in our park... and we did it!
Here's the blurb I wrote announcing the project in our homeowner's newsletter:
Victoria Park Receives Art Grant
Our Children's Park is a hidden gem in Victoria Park. Last year, a group of parents came up with an idea to create a mosaic in the park. A proposal was written and a grant was applied for through the City of Renton's Neighborhood Grant Program and it was approved! The Victoria Park Homeowners Association has been awarded $700 to create a one-of-a-kind community-based art project in our park.
We want you to be a part of this project too! The idea is to create a mosaic around the bench that faces the swing set. In it, we plan to embed colorful marbles, tiles, rocks, and tiny trinkets. We are asking every person who lives in Victoria Park to contribute one item to this project. Items should be no larger than 2 inches across and non-biodegradeable. Examples are: A rock from your front lawn, a marble, a plastic or metal toy, a broken tile or dish, and other small, solid trinkets. Please note your item will not be returned, but instead it will be embedded in cement and on display forever in the Children's Park.
Little by little, donations were dropped of in a basket on our porch - coins, toys, broken jewelry, seashells and rocks - and over the course of the summer I began amassing mosaic materials at thrift stores, yard sales and antique shops - marbles, tiles, and polished glass stones.
In mid-August we finally broke ground and the friends who encouraged me to apply for the grant came out to help us. There was no going back at this point. We dug a 12 ft. by 12 ft. hole 10 inches deep. We couldn't leave it like that for long, so we scheduled a date when we could all meet again and install the mosaic. Over the next two weeks I shopped for supplies, arranged for cement delivery (54 bags!), and invited anyone in the neighborhood I saw to join us.
A few days before we were scheduled to install the mosaic, I wandered in Girlfriends Antique's & Collectibles in downtown Renton and found some much-needed antique marbles to add to the ones I'd collected all summer. I also got a great vintage bolo tie clasp with a Washington state map engraved on it. The owner Deb told me the bolo tie clasp belonged to her father and when I told her what I planned to do with these items, she was very happy and gave me a nice discount. Next, I walked up the street to Upton Glassworks to ask if they had any broken bits of glass that we could include in our design. To my surprise, the owner, Paul Sullivan, brought out a big heavy box full of beautiful smooth glass orbs and said we could have it. Free! I knew then that we were ready to begin our project. These were the big, beautiful, colorful, Renton-made objects we needed to make our mosaic complete.
September 16th was the day we converged on the park with shovels and wheelbarrows to make it happen. The kids helped mix cement (but soon learned how tiring it was and quickly left to play on the playground while the grownups did the dirty work.) The big strong men mixed and poured the concrete and the moms started laying out the materials and coming up with a design so we could easily transfer it when the cement was ready.
And suddenly it was! Everyone quickly tackled certain parts and started pressing objects in the cement.
The area in front of the bench ended up a "sealife" theme with fish, crabs, frogs, turtles, an octopus, and a mermaid surrounded by an ocean of clear, blue, and green marbles with a "barrier reef" of seashells. Next, we moved on to spelling out Children's Park in marbles and finally we let the kids place their toys and all the trinkets we'd collected into the cement.
Then we had a pizza party. (I factored this expense into our budget when I applied for the grant.) We fed all the volunteers, our own kids, plus several kids in the neighborhood who we often see around the neighborhood but whose parents we've never met. One little boy asked me, “Why are you guys doing this?” and I just smiled and said, “Why not?”
A week later we applied a few layers of cement sealant to strengthen and weatherproof it. I also threw in some glitter to add some sparkle. Now we walk past it every day on our way to school and remember that fun time in 2012 when the neighbors came together to make a mosaic.