WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Each child at Blessed Kateri Catholic School took part in creating this mosaic that honours the school's patron – Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha.

April 23, 2012
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

An artist in residence and about 400 eager students, parents and staff at Blessed Kateri Catholic School have created a vibrant mural to honour the canonization of the school's patron – Kateri Tekakwitha.

The 32-by-eight-foot mosaic, located prominently on one of the walls of the common area, also commemorates the school's 20th anniversary. It was unveiled and blessed April 12.

The elementary school hired Edmonton artist Theodora Harasymiw with help from a $5,600 grant from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, which was matched by the parents' council.

As an artist in residence since 1997, she has completed numerous residencies, murals and permanent installations.

Harasymiw did the mosaic at Blessed Kateri School, 3807-41 Ave., with help from students, parents and staff. Everything in the mosaic, including Kateri's portrait, she took directly from the drawings of children.

FIRST ABORIGINAL SAINT

Blessed Kateri, the first North American aboriginal saint, will be canonized at the Vatican on Oct. 21.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Artist Theodora Harasymiw and Viviyan Kalapurayil prepare tiles for the mosaic.

Teacher Chris Lirette described the mural as a Christ-centred project that reflects visually what the school's vision says in words. "We are very pleased with it."

The project began at the end of February with each of the grades working on different sections of the mural. One grade focused on Blessed Kateri herself, submitting portraits of Kateri for the mural. Other grades drew trees or animals or insects.

Harasymiw picked a few pieces from several drawings, projected them on the wall and traced them. Afterwards, for several weeks, everyone helped place the broken tiles on the mural according to colour.

Students came down in groups of three or four to work with the artist. Many parents also volunteered and some also contributed tiles for the project. School staff helped with breaking the tiles and attaching the pieces to the wall.

Student Lucas Jadziewicz and two of his Grade 3 classmates did about half of the water portion of the mosaic. "I feel really proud of what I did; everybody helped so it represents the whole school," he said.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Trevor Yellowbird carefully tucks a tile into the mosaic mural.

"Putting the tiles on the wall was like making a building; you had to make sure that they stuck to the wall and that they were level."

COLLECTIVE METHOD

Harasymiw enjoyed the collective method of completing the mosaic "because it allowed me to work with every single child and each one of them got to put pieces into the mosaic.

"It's a nice process because it sort of forces them to think and think in terms of a mosaic," she said.

Principal Melanie Mazurek described the mosaic as "a union of spirits, a union of hearts and a union of souls."

"It really is the full effort of the community to honour the canonization of Blessed Kateri and the 20th anniversary of our school."

The principal said the mural represents everything Blessed Kateri stood for, from her love of life to her commitment to the Catholic faith. "The lilies you see in the mosaic represent her name, which is Lily of the Mohawks."

There is also a cross that represents the faith. The child beside the cross is symbolic of the love Blessed Kateri had for everyone – for children, for nature and for Christ. "She had a difficult journey, but her faith was very strong and she was very committed," the principal said.

God's creatures, from flowers to bugs, are also represented in the mural. The waters represent Baptism and new life.

TRUE LIFE

"True life is really on the wall," commented Mazurek. She said the rays of light coming out of the cross are symbolic of the school's motto - Sharing the Light.

Harasymiw, a painter for 15 years, began using mosaic only two years ago, after she took courses in San Francisco.

"I do my own personal public commissions and I decided to start doing it in the schools as well because it's a very beautiful and very old art form that we don't see much of here in Edmonton."

Apart from Blessed Kateri School, Harasymiw's mosaics can be found at Father Michael Troy High School, Rutherford Elementary and Julia Kiniski Elementary. She is currently doing a fine art mosaic project at the Ukrainian cultural centre on Whyte Avenue.