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Friday, July 12, 2024

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Indianapolis threads together for Damien Center Mosaic  

When five members of Kimley-Horn’s employee Pride collective went to a mosaic making workshop, many of them were expecting to create a cute trinket to take home.  

Instead, they worked alongside the community on something that would bring lasting inspiration — a mosaic for the Damien Center, a care center for people with HIV/AIDS in Indianapolis — inspired by the AIDS memorial quilt.   

The workshop they attended was the first of nine led by renowned artists Ali Mirsky and Christopher Duffy, co-founders of Empact Art, an organization that aims to foster community through art.  

a brightly colored mosaic panel rendering rests on a table
A model of the new Damien Center location’s elevator core shows what the completed mosaic will look like. (Photo/ Kayla Barlow)
a rendering of a building with a mosaic at its interest stands over green grass
A rendering of the new Damien Center location showcases what the finished mosaic will look like. (Photo provided/ Damien Center)

The workshops will allow community members to help create what Empact calls a “living mosaic” that will become a 1700 square foot installation in the elevator core of the new Damien Center location. The center, which is set to open in 2025, will be located at the corner of East Washington Street and Oriental Avenue. 

Mirsky said the magic of the mosaic is rooted in the energy the community is bringing to the piece.  

“I really hope the feeling (the mosaic) provokes is that everyone who walks into the Damien center or was part of the project feels cared and loved and valued as an individual and as the community,” Mirsky said. 

The mosaic will include a rainbow of figures and streams of mirrors that run through the piece, reflecting the image and stories of those who step inside the Center. Duffy and Mirsky hope collaborating helps the community grow closer to each other and the project as well. 

bright orange ceramic pieces rest besides a blue and green mosaic panel on a white table
Samples of what finished mosaic panels will look like rest on a workshop table. (Photo/ Kayla Barlow)

“My personal hope is that the people there in that community really get to feel connected in this,” Duffy said. 

A local art therapist and artist, Joani Rothenburg, who partnered with Empact for the mosaic, had similar aspirations.  

“The largest healing agent is really getting to know people that have many different kinds of views and thoughts and ways of living,” Rothenburg said. “That is going to be seen and that is going to shine in the mosaic, and I think our world needs so much more acceptance … So, that is my goal. That we really see that sort of beautiful web of life and see people for who they are.” 

At the workshop, attendees designed their own ceramic pieces. Community members molded doughy clay into birds, rainbows, flowers and more to create ceramic pieces that will be placed alongside tiles in the mosaic and colored to match the overall scheme.  

ceramic pieces like birds and pizza sit inside a clear tray
Ceramic pieces made by attendees rest inside a clear tray. (Photo/ Kayla Barlow)

Among the attendees were a handful of employees from Kimley-Horn, a planning, engineering and design firm. 

For them, attending the workshop was the first of many weekly get-togethers they planned to help foster a sense of community among Kimley-Horn’s Pride collective. Thanks to the workshop, it became an opportunity to connect and give back to the Indianapolis community. “Listening to Duffy telling us what the whole project was really about just makes it a little bit more meaningful behind what we’re doing,” said Haley Meyers, one of the Kimley-Horn employees.  

Another one of the employees, Kylie Krawulski, the current lead of the Pride collective employee resource group at Kimley-Horn, said she was glad to have an opportunity to contribute to the Damien Center as she’s familiar with the organization’s work.  

“My girlfriend works in community mental health, and so she has seen that the Damien Center is a really effective organization,” Krawulski said. “I think it’s super exciting that they are having this new space being built and it was cool that we get to contribute to the art that’s going to go there.”  

Echoing this was their coworker Beth Dodd, who hopes the mosaic will make people who visit the center feel loved.  

“When I heard that we were going to be making tiles for the new building, I just thought that was such a cool idea to open it up to everybody so that the entire community could contribute to this building that’s supposed to be improving people’s lives,” Dodd said. “Every time they go there, they know that everybody put in on making something beautiful for them to enjoy.”  

For information on the last few workshops, please see below. 

  • July 9 and 10 from 1 – 5 p.m., Ten East Arts Center, 3137 E. 10th St., Indianapolis 

Contact Indianapolis Recorder intern, Kayla Barlow, at kaylab@indyrecorder.com. 

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