Piecing together a legacy: Mosaic project in park promotes community, friendships

October 2016 Posted in Arts, Culture & History, Community
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Christine Carlisle working on the Mosaic

By Kristine Thomas

Silverton resident Christine Carlisle wanted to say “no.” She even hoped she wouldn’t have to say no because she wished she wouldn’t even be asked. Yet, she was asked to lead the project.

“I think the universe tricked me into doing this,” she said, laughing. “Even my husband encouraged me to say no but I just couldn’t.”

And months later, she couldn’t be more grateful for the amazing experience she has had working on the Rumely Fountain Mosaic in Silverton’s Coolidge McClaine Park with countless community members.

Fountain donations welcome
To assist, go to CommunityFountainMosaic.com
or send a tax deductible donation of any
size to Silverton Rotary Foundation,
c/o Rumely Fountain Mosaic Project,
502 N. First St., Silverton.

A former classical ballet dancer who trained in New York City and an artist who has created mosaics for churches and others, Carlisle belongs to the Society of Mosaic Artists. Never in her 17 years as a mosaic artist has she encountered a project of the grace and significance of the Silverton fountain mosaic.

“It’s nothing short of a miracle that all these people have come together to do this project of this magnitude,” she said. “When I was first told about the project, I thought it was completely unrealistic to do it with the budget they had and volunteer labor.”

What Carlisle along with other project leaders have discovered is there is something “almost truly magical” about the fountain.

“There are so many amazing stories of the people who came together for this project,” Carlisle said, adding the project was made possible because of the dedication and commitment of the volunteers and the leadership team.

To date, more than 400 volunteers have contributed more than 8,000 hours of service to Phase 1 of the fountain, which involved the creation and placement of 118 mosaic panels on the fountain’s floor, 39 panels in the inner rim and 12 panels on the fountainhead for a total of 500 sq. ft. of tile mosaic. There will be panels on the upper rim, but they are still being installed. The project has received support from the City of Silverton, the Silverton Rotary Foundation and the Ford Family Foundation / Institute Leadership Program.

The project also has received financial and non-monetary contributions from local businesses, organizations and individuals in Silverton, Mount Angel and Scotts Mills.

Both money and volunteers are still needed to finish the project, hopefully by next year.

“I think this project is an example of what you put out into the universe, it will be returned to you,” Carlisle said. “Every time we needed it, the right people showed up at the right time to help.”

The leadership team of the Silverton-Mount Angel Cohort #3 of the Ford Foundation include Kathleen Jordan, project manager, of Canby; Jaime Fuhrman, communications leader, of Silverton; Laurie Boyce, fundraising leader, of Aurora; Kristi Brackinreed, finance leader, of Mount Angel and Gail Mitchell, implementation leader, of Silverton.

The cohort members are Silverton residents Ron Bell, Gus Frederick, Elijah Rakha-Sheketoff, John Pattison, Laura Lucero, Rhett Martin, Rich Piaskowski, Diane Brooke, Cindi Bates, Aba Gayle, Emma Anderson, Miranda Traeger and Jamison Ulibarri; Scotts Mills resident Mara’d Van der Wal and Mount Angel resident Anne Bruner. Ann Haviland is the community ambassador and Ami Keiffer is the training facilitator.

Laura Lucero created the four-panel fountainhead with scenes of Mount Hood, the Haystack Rock at the Oregon Coast, Silver Falls State Park and wetlands.

“It has been an incredible privilege to put down the panels created by the volunteers,” Carlisle said. “This fountain is about the spirit of community. It’s about overcoming challenges and setbacks and finding a way.”

The project is also about perseverance.

Many people had hoped the project would be done in June. When that deadline passed, it was then hoped it would be done by Homer Days in August. Now, as the weather becomes cooler and more unpredictable, and the days shorter, Carlisle along with Fuhrman and Jordan said the dedication of the fountain will have to wait until 2017.

“One reason we are not finished is because we are creating something that will last 50 years or more,” Fuhrman said.

The group needs to raise at least $6,000 to complete the work on the fountain and bench.

“People in this community took on a Herculean task,” Carlisle said. “We had to cut tile, glue it on backwards and upside down using the reverse method. This is the hardest project I have ever done but the most rewarding.”

Carlisle and her husband returned to Silverton to care for her mother about five years ago.

“This project has opened my eyes to so many amazing and beautiful women,” she said. “I also never knew how loved Coolidge McClaine Park is and the ebb and flow of people who come through it.”

Carlisle has found it amazing how many people have formed friendships or found common ground by working at the fountain. Two women will sit down next to one another as strangers and the next thing, they are sharing their life stories, she added.

“All the women who have worked on this have the greatest sense of humor. We spend a lot of time laughing,” Carlisle said. “They are also some of the wisest women I know.”

The list of volunteers includes ballet students, entire families, senior citizens, high school students and more.

“When people look at this fountain, I want them to see the more than 400 pairs of hands who put their love into this,” she said. “This project is what it is because we let it tell us what it is instead of us forcing it to be what we wanted.”

Carlisle, 60, said she dedicated herself to transforming the ugly, turquoise fountain into a piece of art because of the leadership and dedication of Jordan and Fuhrman.

Both said the project was not what they originally planned. “We were so innocent in those days,” Fuhrman said.

Jordan said they had the task of taking a vision and making it happen. Their first stumbling block was learning the concrete had to be replaced. First installed in 1933, the concrete was held together by layers of paint.

“We learned we needed a concrete base we could trust to support the artwork,” Jordan said. “If we didn’t have that, we couldn’t go forward.”

Scott Strand of Scott Strand Construction, not only helped with the project – including placing the 3,100 lb. fountain head – but lent his expert advice.

“This is a lot more than we envisioned,” Fuhrman said. “Every time we needed people to step up to help, they have.”

While there have been challenges, they both look forward to the day when the tents will be removed and water will be running. Now when asked when it will be finished, the answer is “As soon as we can.”

The women confess it is stubbornness along with wanting to fulfill a vision that keeps them going. As the days become shorter, they want to finish Phase I by winter.

“The community and the love for this project has been phenomenal,” Jordan said.

Fuhrman said the project has taught her what people can do when they work together. The next project she is considering is a warming shelter for the homeless.

“After doing this complex project, I know we can go on to do more,” she said.

Carlisle said the Greek interpretation of the word mosaic is “patient work.”

“All of us are broken in one way or another,” Carlisle said. “That’s why we need community. This project represents what happens when community comes together and people share their stories. We fix each other. I have seen a lot healing and better people because of this project.”

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