Mosaic is physical molding of diversity, perspectives
The Grand has long been a haven for artistic expression and individuals from different backgrounds. Charlie Leftridge, The Grand’s executive director, confirmed many musicians and artists exhibiting their work at The Grand have expressed gratitude for the center as a safe space.
With a recent news story highlighting the need for inclusion in New Ulm, The Grand wanted to further emphasize the center as a place for people to express themselves and explore different backgrounds.
“As a community we want all people to feel welcome and celebrated,” said Tamara Furth, The Grand’s program director.
Leftridge said The Grand is asking how they can be advocates for the arts and artists. He said the art center’s mission is to give artists a place to develop, but that’s only possible in a safe and inclusive space where people are free to start a dialogue.
The best example of this commitment to inclusion is a mosaic piece created by artist Bridget Gusso, called “Self-Reflection.”
A few years ago, The Grand had the idea to decorate the stone pizza oven on the main floor. The pizza oven juts out from the kitchen space into the former dining room. The Grand’s board decided to add permanent artwork to the oven to cover the drab grey exterior.
Gusso volunteered to create a mosaic work on the oven exterior. She had completed similar mosaic work at the New Ulm Medical Center.
The creation of “Self-Reflection” was a mosaic that was time-consuming, taking roughly a year to complete. Gusso worked on the project during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For social distancing purposes, she worked in isolation. The mosaic was completed in April 2021. As the pandemic was still a concern, The Grand held off promoting the finished project.
A year later, The Grand wants to acknowledge the work completed by Gusso and acknowledge the message behind the piece.
In her artist statement, Gusso said she was inspired by artist Breanna McCarthy, who creates paper collages called “Paper Queens.” The Paper Queens are inspired by her Afro-Caribbean roots and feature vibrant, full-of-pattern color.
Gusso also wanted to represent the underrepresented members of the New Ulm. The mosaic depicts women of color and includes different flags representing people of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex asexual (LGBTQIA) community. This was a reminder that while New Ulm is a predominatly white community, there are other types of people in the community.
The negative space on the mosaic is covered in mirrors. The idea is that when looking at the women who do not look like most of the community, viewers cannot help but see themselves at the same time. It creates visual empathy.
“I believe empathy is one of the greatest qualities any of us can possess,” Gusso said in her artist statement. “In a world that has become so divided over the past few years, we need to be able to see ourselves in others. It’s what allows us to have compassion for one another.”
The artwork projects a two-fold message. The piece is a reminder to see yourself with and in others, and it also asks viewers to perform self-reflecting on diversity and inclusion.
“Self-Reflection” will remain a part of The Grand indefinitely, symbolizing the center’s commitment to diversity and empathy.
Dozens of different materials were used to make the mosaic, some recovered as discarded scraps.
Leftridge said it is one of the more fascinating works at The Grand.
“There is always something new I am noticing,” he said.
The Grand invites individuals to visit and view the mosaic as a symbol of what they hope to represent.