Our mobile mosaic-making is so simple and quick, yet it leaves a lasting impression.

You’re sitting at a table, painting a simple 2” x 2” ceramic tile to match a pre-determined pattern. First you might be talking with your friend…then maybe a stranger across from you…or perhaps a city council member….or a police officer is painting beside you….or you meet someone who might be from a different culture, religion, economic class, or your complete political opposite. And suddenly, through this process, you are connecting over the topic of the shared artwork.

What is the topic? Well, it depends on the community. It could be a historic tribute such as our current effort to honor Harlem’s 15th Regiment and their heroics during WW1. It might be an image concerning issues such as poverty, homelessness, human trafficking. During those five minutes of painting, we might share agencies in your neighborhood doing noble work. It can be uplifting as an image to rally behind, hyping up a guest speaker, upcoming documentary, or a cherished community festival. Often we honor the living, with portraits of contributors to their community. There are so many possibilities that we could spend the end of time building mosaics for thousands of communities.

On Governors Island, we’ve already shared the story of Sergeant Henry Johnson. (Check out link here). This past week, we partnered with Scholastic’s Art and Writing Awards as we paid tribute to the birth of Nelson Mandela, one hundred years ago this July 18.  

A great start but we’re only in New York City for nine more weeks, so I’ve created a wish list. If this blog gets into the right hands perhaps they’ll invite us to partner within their community.

1. Next weekend (6/16-17) is Jazz Weekend on Governors Island. The Art Force 5 team will be building a mosaic tribute to either James Reese Europe or Noble Sissle, both jazz pioneers and members of the aforementioned Harlem 15th Regiment.

2. We are in the process of bringing our mosaic-making to Harlem, the home of the 15th Regiment. Some ideal partners would be The Schomburg, the historic YMCA, or even partnering with the NYPD precincts in Harlem neighborhoods.  Three invitations from Harlem agencies would begin to set the stage for our 2019 plan to begin to recognize the centennial anniversary of the Harlem Renaissance.

3. Another Harlem 15th member Spottswood Poles was called the Ty Cobb of the Negro Baseball League. He set records as part of the New York Lincoln Giants. An Art Force 5 dream would be to pay tribute to Mr. Poles by creating a mosaic at Yankee Stadium, even asking players to paint a tile and learn about this legend. Sports stadiums are a perfect place to engage hundreds in our process.

4. This July 30 marks the 100th anniversary of the WWI death of Joyce Kilmer, a New York Times writer and poet most famously known for writing a 1913 poem that begins “I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree.” Fittingly, Governors Island’s poetry weekend is the weekend prior to this anniversary but how amazing would it be to spend Monday, July 30 at the New York Times offices asking modern day writers to paint a tile of Kilmer and his Trees.

5. The last might seem like a stretch or an attention grab but our program is generously funded by a grant from the State University of New York (SUNY). One of SUNY’s favorite alumni (from SUNY Oswego) is part of a widely-viewed morning television show called The Today Show. While we’re only in NYC until August 12th, we’d come back to engage the show’s plaza audience in making a mosaic portrait of Al Roker for his birthday on August 20.

I’ll start calling around this week in hopes of garnering some invitations but since everyone is connected by 6 degrees, perhaps they’ll get word and invite us themselves.


Dan Napolitano