MSV Housing commissioned community artist Debra Tracey, to facilitate and create The Elmswood Park Community Mosaic.
Greater Manchester born Debra had worked in Moss Side and across Greater Manchester for many years, helping bring communities together through creativity so she was delighted to work in home ground again.
Having seen the St Oswald’s Church community mosaic develop in 2014, Sarah Hodgkinson approached Debra with an idea to add a colourful mosaic to the new Elmswood Park development at the old Stagecoach site at Bowes Street.
Debra was keen to design a mosaic that would provide a visual representation of the diversity of the Moss Side community. Enthralled by the vibrancy that fabrics of different cultures offer, she felt that ‘patches’ of mosaic, inspired by various textiles would create a colourful cohesive piece of art that would represent the heart of the participants. The design, she felt, should also enable additional patches in the future to ensure full inclusivity.
Sarah suggested the patches could be honeycomb shaped so between them both, the theme was agreed on.
The next stage was for Debra to research various fabric designs to provide further inspiration for the colour and texture of the honeycombs.
Once the research was completed, Debra pulled together the materials to enable her to help mosaic beginners to create individual patches that would eventually come together.
Several workshops were delivered, where many participants produced at least some if not a full mosaic honeycomb, which Debra then took back to her studio to combine together.
Inspirations included the Caribbean, Poland, Ireland, Jamaica, Ethiopia, Ghana, Somalia, Nigeria and England. It was hoped that residents and visitors to Elmswood Park may recognise the ‘suggestion’ of a colour or pattern they are familiar with and that the piece would spark conversation between friends yet to be made.
If the day of installation was anything to go by, the mosaic already succeeded in its mission! One of the residents remarked that a patch reminded her of Ghanaian fabric. And many conversations were made throughout the day.
There was also a beautiful serenade from one of the residents, as he played his piano accordion. The installation of the mosaic was truly a joyous experience.