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Beautiful broken glass: Riverside and Wapanohk students created mosaic murals

Artist Ursula Neufeld spent five weeks working with students at the two schools to bring their projects to life.

Several classes from two different schools in Thompson were lucky enough to be part of a mosaic art project that was facilitated by revered Winnipeg artist Ursula Neufeld. Neufeld’s mosaic art can be appreciated in many locations across Winnipeg, in numerous schools and parks and even reaches as far as India. She spent five weeks in Thompson between Wapanohk and École Riverside schools to help bring two large mosaic art projects to life. 

Co-facilitator and local artist Teresa Burrows along with several teachers and the principals from both schools were instrumental in not just making the art project happen but also personalizing it to “fit” with northern culture. Mosaic art is typically made by laying down cut pieces of glass, stone or ceramic to shape a pattern. Riverside principal Jon Wamboldt explained that from the start they had some ideas about what they wanted their mosaic piece to look like and “then the students worked with the artist to develop what was made.” 

Students in the classes of Sam Graham/Emily Hayes/Micheline Gagne and Krista Moody worked for three weeks on the project and the end product is a beautiful and very large piece of mosaic art that includes a fire fox, northern lights, a rabbit, a fish and a separate owl piece. To add an École Riverside touch to it, Wamboldt says along with the glass tiles that were used, they added two nickels: one from 1962, the year Riverside was built and from 2022, the 60-year anniversary. Grade 6 students Darya Soheili-Mehr and Hayden Lowen explained how they used tools to break the glass tiles and had to shape the tiles and apply special glue.

“It was a really good experience,” said Alice Cachada.

The students were completely hands-on with this art project right from the initial drawing of what they wanted on the mosaic art, to cutting, shaping and applying the tiles. Darryl Thomas said breaking the tiles was his favourite part. 

Over at Wapanohk, Grade 6, 7 and 8 students and teachers began work with the artist to piece together their mosaic art which was based off a previously panned mural by teachers Luke Hudson and Stefan Hudson. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the mural never made it up on the wall but became the inspiration for the mosaic art. It is based on the Seven Teachings and then modification was made by Cameron Flamand, a Grade 6 teacher at Wapanohk, to incorporate four birds joined by an orange ribbon in the centre of the white bison. This was an homage to the four siblings who tragically passed away in the house fire during the making of the art piece. 

A Grade 8 student from Brent Baduik’s class explained his part was “placing down tiles and did some grouting.” Teachers from Waponohk School including Baduik and Flamand and Mckayla Monden and Laura Sopkowe involved their classes right from the start until completion of the project. Theo Dysart, also from Baduik’s Grade 8 class, said, “This was a beautiful project.” 

The two mosaic art projects were made possible through the Manitoba Arts Council and Artists in the School which was initially driven by Riverside teacher Hayes. 

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