Merrimack Maniacs Turn to Art

(Excerpted from Bannockburn News August 2005)

Merrimack Mosaic

Merrimack Pool Artwork

Elizabeth Braun’s home and studio (Elizabeth’s Glassworks LLC) adjoin Merrimack Pool. As the pool renovations neared completion, Elizabeth hatched a plot to collaborate with kids over an artistic addition to the final product. Hereís her story of how the artist, some junior webfoots, and an assortment of adult co-conspirators created a colorful lunatic fringe around the pool.

We had been keeping an eye on the progress of the renovation of the Merrimack pool and grounds throughout the year. On the day kids were registering for teams, I walked down to talk with (Pool President) Jim Mahaffie and his wife Elise about the finishing touches to be added before the pool opened to the public. Someone had mentioned letting the kids decorate the huge gunite retaining wall, behind the new baby pool and intermediate pool. “How about a glass tile mosaic?” I asked Mahaffies. Everyone loved the idea, but time was of the essence: we wanted everything to be finished before the first home dive meet. I suggested that the mural feature the team name, Merrimack Maniacs, and use the team colors of black and yellow. We all agreed on that plan and work started immediately.

First, I discovered an incredibly wonderful mosaic tile supplier in upstate NY, Susan Jablon at www.mosaicartsupplies.com. This kind and generous patron of the arts sent us all the tiles for our project for free! She even sent some of her top of the line colors and iridized tiles as well, when she heard that I wanted kids to be able to add their own creations around the main mural of the letters. Then, to prepare the mural site, Elise Mahaffie, Patricia Lake, and Nate Fox spray painted a background of blue waves for the letters.

Kids at work

Kids at work on the Merrimack mosaic

Next, to produce the letters, we used templates to trace the letters in duplicate on brown kraft paper, soaked the tiles off their backing, and counted out the approximate numbers we needed of each color for each letter. We set up a few tables on a sunny Saturday. The kids went to work arranging the tiles, while the adults wielding mosaic tools nipped tiles to shape for the edges of letters. All sixteen letters were completed in two and a half hours!

Getting the letters up on the wall, which is at a rather steep angle and just high enough to warrant the use of a ladder, was not quite so speedy. Elise and Patricia helped me cement and grout the letters, which took many, many hours on several hot, humid days! (Janice Huey and the coaches and lifeguards at Merrimack Pool were very helpful!) We had accomplished our goal, and the mosaic was in place for the first at home dive meet! Sealing the grout had to wait for sunny workdays, but now the Merrimack Maniacs Mosaic Mural is complete! Well, nearly… At the pool desk await small kits of mosaic tiles and instruction, for kids to make a bit of their own art to add to the wall. It may be next season before we actually have enough artwork to put up around the letters- or it may be an ongoing project for years to come- for any kid who wants to be a “part of the wall!”