Pictured above: Kate Kerrigan (centre) helps her cousins Maleta (back to us), Michael and Leo Mussloff in St Paul, MN.
Kate Kerrigan writes about her inspiring ‘Piecing us together’ project, which has taken her across the US, where the people she meets create a small section of mosaic that will eventually be joined together in one piece. To Kate’s delight, she found much more than mosaic on her journey – healing, connection and joy.
WRITTEN & NARRATED BY KATE KERRIGAN
Listen to Kate narrate her article:
This project is a culmination of everything I love: art, travel, family and friends. For the past five months, I have been driving across the US to visit friends and family, having them create a small abstract mosaic segment. Each of their contributions will be used to create a large mosaic. My vision of the final piece is a fabric of the life that I have woven, by all of the people who have touched it.
The idea struck me like a lightning bolt while I was walking my dog in May 2021, although it wasn’t exactly out of nowhere. I had been mulling over several ideas during the last year or so: the direction of my art; doing something bigger, outside of the box and more meaningful; the importance of relationships and family during Covid-19; the itch to travel; and turning 50, which brings bigger life questions and reflection. Six weeks later, I was on the road.
Between the pandemic and the political division in my country, many themes arose: unity, inclusion, connection, relationships and in-person contact. The timing was everything! Being on the road in the middle of it all, I was able to freshly capture the after-effects of restrictions and being locked down, like the importance of face-to-face conversations. I also felt this project, connecting with people through art, was a way of bridging the divide and bringing something positive to the table.
The project itself had to be something that was accessible for everyone. I have had ages ranging from five to 94 years old! It had to be fun, with no rules and few decisions. It had to be substantial enough to feel like something was actually created and to get a gist of the mosaic process, but that didn’t take too long. Ultimately, I wanted people to express themselves. The scale of the final mosaic could have no boundaries, as I still have no idea how many people will participate! It had to be abstract. The only controls I put in place were the colour schemes, based on the four places I lived. Green for Wisconsin, red for San Francisco, blue for Lake Tahoe, and yellows or browns for the high desert of Bend, Oregon.
Overall, this has been such a feel-good project for everyone involved, myself included. Seeing faces light up and all of the smiles, I know it brought a lot of joy. Often times, I was the first visitor since the pandemic hit! People were excited to be included and to participate in something bigger. It stirred up a lot of stored collective memories, bringing laughter and tears. It was an opportunity to share and listen … and just talk.
With some hindsight, I, too, have gained so much. Not only did I get to see so many new and different places, but also people who I know and love, and meet new ones! I experienced first-hand generosity and kindness from complete strangers, not to mention the overwhelming amount from family and friends, renewing my faith in humanity and my country. I learned that what you put out into the universe comes right back to you, like a boomerang – in my case, nothing but positivity! To know that I have touched someone’s life in a positive way fills me up and keeps me going. The biggest takeaway for me, though, was that by stepping outside of my comfort zone with this entire project, I found a whole new layer of inner strength, hidden talents and confidence.
Though largely self-funded, I couldn’t have done it without help! The three mosaic suppliers that I use here in the US – Bohemian Element, DiMosaico and WitsEnd Mosaic – donated all of the materials, tools, mesh and adhesive, which was huge! I had some donations through businesses and quite a few from individuals. The biggest contribution to the project was that from my friends and family throughout the country. Their generosity and hospitality was enormous!
After I complete the final mosaic and head into the next phase of this project, a documentary, I’ll be seeking additional funding. Other plans for the project include having it travel to several locations throughout the US, so that people can see in person what they’ve contributed to, and perhaps a book. And if this first project goes well enough, I’d like to do an international version, piecing together my global friends.