LA GRANGE PARK – A collaborative art project between a local artist and residents at Plymouth Place is turning heads around the La Grange Park senior living community.
The mural, an 8-foot-by-4-foot mosaic piece, depicts a vibrant landscape scene that includes an image of the facility, 315 N. La Grange Road. The mural, created using tiles and cut stained glass, was a partnership between local artist Sue Coombs and roughly two dozen Plymouth residents, including Bill Coates.
None of the participants had ever created a mosaic before, said Coates, an eight-year resident at Plymouth.
“It appealed to me,” he said. “I’ve always enjoyed art.”
Karen Nordquist, a resident for two years and a volunteer at the Field Museum in Chicago, also participated in the project.
“There are a lot of mosaics [at the museum],” she said. “Old, old mosaics. I thought it would be interesting to try to make my own.”
Along with a likeness of the building, the mosaic features symbolic images that represent the community, including trees, a pond, a winding path, white hydrangeas and a monarch butterfly – the community has a butterfly habitat project. The completed artwork adorns a wall on a patio garden area outside the third floor health care center.
The mural seamlessly links nine sections, arranged in three columns, Coates explained. Residents who contributed to the project included their initials somewhere within the image, he proudly added.
It was unveiled before roughly 100 residents during a ceremony June 5.
“Many of the residents [present] didn’t know the garden existed, so it was really good for them to come up and see it and be able to enjoy the garden,” said Allyson Zak, Plymouth’s director of development and external affairs.
The project began in January, when Coombs began teaching mosaic workshops at Plymouth. There were two meetings per week for roughly three months. Coombs, of La Grange Park, is a teacher and student at the Chicago Mosaic School, 1806 W. Cuyler Ave. in Chicago.
The school opened 11 years ago and remains the only nonprofit mosaic art school in the country.
“A mosaic is an ancient art form,” Coombs said. “It’s taking a material – which could be anything – and breaking it down into smaller pieces and then reconstructing it into a piece of art.”
Once the residents were comfortable with the various techniques of the art medium, they began discussing with Coombs what a project might entail. The natural theme was the community itself, Nordquist explained. From there, everyone brought their input to designing and executing the mosaic construction.
The mural was broken into different sections, with health care center residents and those in memory support tasked with creating the borders, while residents in independent living worked on individual tiles of the mural.
“The enthusiasm was shared by the whole group,” Coombs said.
Former Plymouth Place Board of Directors Chairwoman Nancy Sutherland came up with the initial idea of the mosaic. Below the artwork is a dedication plaque reading, “This mosaic mural is a gift from Nancy Sutherland, The Estate of Rush Philbrook, Mary Voigt. With special thanks to Lead Artist Sue Coombs and Resident Artists who gave their time and talents.”
It’s a recent summer afternoon as Nordquist admires the finished project.
“We did that,” she proudly remarks as a passerby overhears.
“You did that?” the woman asks Nordquist, pointing at the colorful mosaic mural. “Oh my heavens. Put that on the internet. That’s so beautiful.”