The Mosaic of Friendship, the Amizade of Art

It stopped me in my tracks.

 There was a beautiful mosaic, spiraling, swirling, sparkling across the front of the Glazer Children’s Museum in Tampa, FL. I love anything to do with glass—beach glass, stained glass, ceramics, mirrors, blown glass. But I especially love mosaics.

INSPIRING SPIRALS: Mari Gardner's  Spiral Fantasia-A Child's Dream  graces the facade of The Glazer Children's Museum.

INSPIRING SPIRALS: Mari Gardner's Spiral Fantasia-A Child's Dream graces the facade of The Glazer Children's Museum.

MOSAIC OF FRIENDSHIP: Reflecting the bright beauty of a child's hopes and dreams.

MOSAIC OF FRIENDSHIP: Reflecting the bright beauty of a child's hopes and dreams.

It was a beautiful, sunny day, as so many are in Florida. Tampa has a yearly average of 244 total days with sun as opposed to Albany, New York’s 180, according to Current Results research news and science facts. It’s one of the many reasons my daughter decided to go to the University of Tampa, and she was the reason I was there walking around. While she was busy, I grabbed my camera and took a walk over the Cass Street Bridge across the Hillsborough River to Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and The Tampa Riverwalk.

I got more than my share of amazing photos that day, aided by sunshine, clear blue skies and the thoughtful way the park is set up. It is surrounded by downtown Tampa’s beautiful business district where many buildings are made up almost entirely of floor-to-ceiling windows that reflect the sunshine, brilliant blue sky, palm trees and other buildings.

And the park itself has a wonderful view of the University of Tampa’s Plant Hall. Plant Hall, formerly the Tampa Bay Hotel, houses the Henry B. Plant Museum, beautiful with its six striking stainless steel minarets and other Moorish Revival architecture and detailing, including four cupolas and three domes. The park also put me in sight of the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts and the Tampa Museum of Art. Not bad for an afternoon stroll.

LOOKING TOWARD THE FUTURE: The University of Tampa's Plant Hall as seen across Hillsborough River from Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.

LOOKING TOWARD THE FUTURE: The University of Tampa's Plant Hall as seen across Hillsborough River from Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.

The children’s museum’s bright facade faces rows of refreshing water fountains doing a cooling dance across the concrete walkway. The palm trees and open spaces were a wonderful respite from the bare trees, steely gray skies and snow I’d gladly left behind in New York for a few days.

HOT, HOT, HOT: Savoring the Florida sunshine.

HOT, HOT, HOT: Savoring the Florida sunshine.

COOL COMFORT: Dancing fountains cool and delight.

COOL COMFORT: Dancing fountains cool and delight.

And then there was the mosaic.

I was dazzled by the beautiful shades and shards of blue, green, red, orange, brown, amber and yellow glass, and sections of silver mirror that made up the design by artist Mari Gardner, entitled Spiral Fantasia—A Child’s Dream. I noticed I was not the only one who felt compelled to touch it. I took photos to try to capture some of the brightness and beauty and take a bit of the happiness it made me feel home with me. I was so inspired; I used a portion of one of those photos as the cover photo for this website.

Art glass and ceramics are beautiful--colorful, lively, and often functional. They make ordinary spaces more extraordinary. Seeing them makes me happy. But mosaics always draw me in because with an artist’s caring and creativity, something so beautiful can be made from something so broken.

And artist Mari Gardner creates not only works of art, but community projects, in the US and around the world. She truly embodies the spirit of amizade, friendship.

Like it took love and support from a mosaic of caring people throughout my daughter’s life--family, friends, teachers, neighbors, and Allison herself, to help her become the person she is today, to make this dream come true for her.

I realized later, that spiraling mosaic contained every emotion I was feeling as I walked around, taking in that beautiful new place and contemplating the major life change my daughter and I were both facing in different ways as she prepared to go away to college.

As I think of it now, the title of this piece, its sense of movement and every color in Spiral Fantasia—A Child’s Dream was significant: I was in Tampa because my child’s dream of going to college there was coming true—there was bright, happy yellow, the Florida sunshine color; different shades of blue; proud, dignified purple; nostalgic amber; the green and brown of life and growth; the rich warmth of orange; life-force red and the red of a mother’s worry and love.

And the silver of the mirrored portions of the mosaic reflected not only the scenic place where my daughter  would be living, but the clarity I felt--that as hard as it was to let her go, it was the right thing to do. Clear even through my tears, that though part of me would love to keep her with me forever, I had encouraged her to leave home and follow her dreams. I knew it was exactly what she wanted and needed, had worked so hard for and deserved.

Like an artist creates a mosaic, friends can help us gather disparate, sometimes discarded pieces of our lives, of ourselves—colorful and broken shards of experience--bring them together with conscious intent, love and understanding and arrange them into something beautiful and whole.

This inspiring mosaic, Spiral Fantasia—A Child’s Dream, seemed to embody, reflect and express my emotions in a tangible, manageable and ultimately incredibly beautiful way.

--Deborah Correia 3/18/14

AMIZADE OF ART: Caught in reflections of life's color, beauty and emotion.

AMIZADE OF ART: Caught in reflections of life's color, beauty and emotion.

For more information about the artist, Mari Gardner, her art and community projects, visit her website at http://www.marigardner.com/index.html and see the feature on her in “my amizade heroes”.

For more information about places mentioned in this blog:

Glazer Children’s Museum: glazermuseum.org and https://www.facebook.com/GlazerChildrensMuseum

The University of Tampa: ut.edu

The Florida Museum of Photographic Arts: fmopa.org          

The Tampa Museum of Art: tampamuseum.org