The Rosewood-Zaragosa Neighborhood Center is one of six Austin Public Health facilities that offer social and health services to Austin residents. It’s also now the home of “The Community Quilt,” a large-scale mosaic artwork that was created by the members of the community themselves.
Under the direction of mosaic artist Ryah Christensen (who was recommended for the project by her friend and fellow local artist Melissa Knight), members of the Rosewood neighborhood were invited to the center to learn more about mosaics and to create their own tiles. The idea was to make the complete piece something akin to a quilt created by an old-fashioned quilting circle.
“We held four free workshops – open to the public – at the neighborhood center, in which we drew quilting patterns together,” says Christensen. “And we all started riffing off of each other’s patterns, basically. You start with your little pattern, your neighbor starts with their pattern, and then you figure out how they meet in the middle. And then gradually we start designing this quilt (quote-unquote ‘quilt’) that is… a combination of all of our expressions.”
“We were looking at doing community art in a way that connects the artists,” Knight says. “You work on one part of the piece and someone else works on another one… so coming together, all together collectively, it creates the bigger piece and the bigger picture of our community.”
Emy Leviege, a painter who is originally from Mexico but has lived in the neighborhood for many years, was excited to participate in the community art project. “People that differ in nationality and people that [are] different in age… all come together to do a beautiful piece,” she says. “This is amazing.”
After all the community input, which came from dozens of people in the neighborhood, Christensen was surprised by the end results. “It’s remarkably true to the original drawings, even though the number of people after that first drawing session grew and there was always tremendous freedom for self-expression within each tile,” she says. “But there was so much… artistic communication happening between neighbors at the table that it managed to like grow as this cohesive, wild thing.”