Christian Pérès Guibaut directs the assembly of mosaic tiles. ST PAUL AND DISTRICT ARTS FOUNDATION

If you think of art as a solitary pursuit, you might also think that artists are doing fine through the pandemic.

But there’s a special joy in artistic collaboration, and several people in St. Paul were delighted for the opportunity to come together last week and create something for the community.

Eight participants created a mosaic mural that will be installed on the north wall of the Myrnam Insurance building in downtown St. Paul. The mosaic was unveiled in its location on Saturday, and will be grouted and prepared for permanent installation.

Dancers from the St. Paul Arts Foundation’s Jeté Dance Studio preformed at the unveiling, which was streamed live online.

The four-day mosaic workshop was offered by St. Paul and
District Arts Foundation under a grant from Alberta Culture

Eric Spoeth coordinated the effort. He says the team worked well together.

“Some have artistic backgrounds, some don’t,” he said. “We invited our guest artist Christian Pérès Guibaut, who is a mosaic muralist and a painter, to lead this workshop. Christian’s from Argentina, and he’s conducted probably a dozen of these community mosaic murals, not just in Argentina but in Brazil and various other places, so I thought he would be the perfect person to mentor this group.”

Guibaut’s spouse Erin Pankratz, also a mosaic instructor, added her expertise and guidance to the project. The St. Paul mural is Guibaut’s first in North America.

The group collaborated on an abstract design that was well-suited for teaching, Spoeth said. 

“The beauty of mosaic is that you’re not necessarily attached to a specific line like you are with painting,” Spoeth said. “Somebody without any experience can learn it fairly quickly.”

The process began with soliciting donations, and Spoeth said the business community stepped up to donate the tile materials. Then the team selected the colours, and painted and cut the tiles to fit into the design.

“The grouting is the climactic event, because that’s when you see it all come together as a cohesive whole,” he said. “And then of course the icing on the cake will be a plaque which will acknowledge the individual participants involved in it.”

Spoeth hopes this project will lead to more like it.

The workshops were conducted under Covid-safe conditions, with screening questionnaires, sanitizer, masks, and as much distancing as possible. Spoeth says it was a good feeling for people to be able to come together over the project.

“To have all these arts programs shut down and people locked in their homes, it’s really been cathartic to be able to get together,” he said. 

“Just the camaraderie that’s come even out of these few days, you can really see that people are relieved to be able to go out and learn a new skill and do things.”