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Mosaic project unites artists and community, more to come

  • 3 min to read

There’s a brand new addition to Murphys Community Park.

A colorful mosaic now graces one of the outer walls of the park’s restroom due to the efforts of many in the community.

Mosaic project unites artists and community, more to come

A new mosaic mural at Murphys Community Park has been created by more than 100 community volunteers who now call themselves the Merry Mosaicers.

With the help of over 100 volunteers, Robin Modlin, a local artist based at the Art on Main studio in Murphys, and several artist friends created a mosaic of flowers, animals, insects and sunshine.

Several community organizations pitched in to fund the project, including the Calaveras County Arts Council, Murphys Community Club, Angels-Murphys Rotary Club and Murphys Library.

Quyle Kilns provided assistance with the use of materials and studio space.

Modlin came up with the idea of creating a mosaic in the park while working on another mosaic in front of Murphys Grill on Main Street.

“I was working on that mosaic and while I was, people were so incredibly sweet and kind and positive about the process of me putting that mosaic on there,” Modlin said. “It was just like this wonderful, positive, public experience with all these people. Sometimes I’d be out there early in the morning and people would drive by and they’d say, ‘Thank you,’ … and I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun to do something in the park?”

Mosaic project unites artists and community, more to come

The mosaic shows the detail of a dog, appropriately named “Murphy.”

Modlin took her idea to the Murphys Community Club, which voted to support and help fund the project, and suggested the restroom wall in the park as the location for the mosaic.

Next, Modlin approached Kathy Mazzaferro, the executive director of the Calaveras Arts Council.

“We are all about public art, and since this was definitely public art, we said we’d be delighted,” Mazzaferro said. Many other local organizations also agreed to contribute to the project.

Modlin enlisted three other artist friends – Sue King, Sarah Switeck, and Kristine Loving  – to help work on the design

“I wanted to have more input on the design, and then in thinking about how to do a community-based mosaic, we wanted to be able to embrace different parts of the community, including children,” she said.

Mosaic project unites artists and community, more to come

A close-up shows the detail of a clay face made by a fifth-grader at Michelson Elementary and fired at Quyle Kilns.

The group went to Michelson Elementary and worked with two fifth-grade classes to create round clay faces to be incorporated into the mosaic as blossoms on the flowers. With the help of Quyle Kilns, the faces were fired and glazed.

An artist friend at Quyle Kilns, Amanda Sedgwick-Maule, put together a fundraiser offering her own pottery for sale, and also made a large donation to the project.

“We also had workshops at Quyle, and they were very, very generous with their time and with helping us create other elements for the mosaic, and since it was a garden theme, we made butterflies and dragonflies and snails and frogs and different things that went in the garden,” Modlin said. “And then at my home studio in Murphys I had other workshops where I had people come to make some flowers on a mesh, so that we could take the whole flower, which had the little face in it, and the flower, and we just took that and put those on the wall, which really helped save time at the mosaic.”

Modlin set up work slots for people to come and volunteer their time.

“Within 15 days, we were able to install the mosaic; we worked really hard,” she said. “Well over 100 people participated in the whole process to create the mosaic, so we accomplished what we wanted to do, which was to have it be a communitywide mosaic work. There were a number of people involved in making it happen, so we are really happy and excited about that.”

People passing by also contributed to the project.

“I put out a jar while we were working, and close to $700 (was) donated while (people) walked by, which really shows you how supported it was, how people wanted to participate in some way,” Modlin said. “I was able to have enough money for all of the materials … It’s all been volunteer, except for the materials.”

Modlin said that community art projects have a lot to offer.

“There was this sense of ownership by community people who really loved participating and creating something beautiful and long-lasting that had such a positive reception. As we were installing the mosaic, it was amazing how many people came and said, ‘Oh, it’s so beautiful; Oh thank you for doing this; I love what you’re doing,’ and for all of the people volunteering it just made them feel so wonderful that they were doing something really positive for the community,” she said.

When people asked about the group behind the project, Modlin had trouble explaining that not just one group was responsible.

“People would say all the time, ‘Who are you guys?’ or, ‘What group are you from?’ and I would just say, ‘Well, we’re just people,’ and then, finally, I decided that we would call our group the Merry Mosaicers.”

The group started another project in the park on Monday, which will be an additional mosaic on the stairs leading up to the Murphys Library.

“Mosaics are found all around the world, and for centuries and centuries people have been doing mosaics out of all kinds of materials. It’s a very forgiving medium, it can be very, very detailed, and … it’s something that pretty much anybody can do,” Modlin said.

The group hopes to bring more community art to the people of Murphys, Modlin said.

“The Merry Mosaicers would love to do another project, and so I want to put that out there to the business community in Murphys,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be a giant project, it can be a small one … it would be fun to do more mosaics in Murphys.”

Modlin can be contacted at



Noah Berner has lived in Calaveras County most of his life, and graduated from University of California, Santa Cruz with a degree in history.

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