Humacao, Puerto Rico Public Works Gallery

March 6, 2019

In February 2019, the Chicago Mosaic School brought a meaningful collaborative project to completion for the town of Humacao, in Puerto Rico. 104 mosaic peace signs were designed and assembled by communities in Chicago and Puerto Rico. The Chicago Mosaic School donated and prepared the materials for the project and help open studio time for members of the community to come in and create an imaginative artwork for Humacao. 

The seeds of the project were sown in the fall of 2017, when CMS certification student and Humacao resident Brenda Montanile was attending a mosaic workshop here in Chicago. At home in Puerto Rico, Hurricane Maria was making landfall on her home and community  leaving devastation in its wake. Upon finally returning home, As Brenda and the local residents began the slow process of rebuilding from the ruins. a local collective dedicated to graphic and urban arts began to invite local and international artists to collaborate on over twenty-five large scale murals to assist with urban renewal and post-disaster rebuilding initiatives. 

Inspired by this initiative, Brenda proposed that CMS partner with Coqui Charites to expand the project to public mosaics. Thanks to these organizing efforts and the support of the project’s local financial sponsors, the Chicago Mosaic School was able to contribute materials, studio time, and expertise to the creation of the 104 mosaic peace signs. Each mosaic is entirely unique, demonstrating its maker’s individual vision of hope and healing for the city of Humacao. Every single sign features salvaged terra cotta tiles stripped from the roofs of  local Humacao buildings in the storm and repurposed as tesserae. These materials were collected by volunteers from the area and shipped to CMS with the generous sponsorship of Coqui Charities and private donors including Brenda Montanile.

CMS reached out to the Puerto Rican Cultural Center of Chicago, who co-hosted two studio events with CMS in December. Local members of the Chicago Puerto Rican community contributed  their heartfelt expressions of solidarity with their family, friends, and fellow citizens in Puerto Rico through the creation these works. Additionally CMS mosaic students and artists from around the United States shipped their work to be included in this collaborative project. Humacao organizers are also helped the local community members to create their own signs to beautify their city and express their vision of renewal.

Five CMS faculty, (Sue Giannotti, Sue Coombs, Casey Van Loon, Martha Crandall, and founding executive director Karen Ami) traveled to Humacao to install the pieces at two different designated sites in the town.  The installations went smoothly as a combined effort between the Chicago and Puerto Rican artists. The residents were excited and very emotional to see what had been created to bring pride and beauty back to this beloved town. As Humacao recovers from the aftermath of such a harrowing ordeal, we hope these peace signs not only enrich the visual landscape of the city, but bear witness to an ethic of compassion, solidarity, and support for the victims of environmental disasters, and the healing potential of art.

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