Nora Walls, 6, attaches a ceramic replica of an ammonite fossil to a mosaic panel at Saturday’s JAM session at the NoCo Arts Center in Jeffersonville. She is one of the many community members who contributed to the mosaic. Staff photo by Brooke McAfee
Nora Walls, 6, attaches a ceramic replica of an ammonite fossil to a mosaic panel at Saturday’s JAM session at the NoCo Arts Center in Jeffersonville. She is one of the many community members who contributed to the mosaic. Staff photo by Brooke McAfee
JEFFERSONVILLE — Jeffersonville will soon have another colorful public art addition in its growing NoCo Arts & Cultural District.

On Saturday, community members made their own contributions to a nearly 45-foot-long mosaic that will cover the facade of the NoCo Arts Center.

The Jeffersonville Arts Alliance presented its free Jeffersonville Art Movement (JAM) session Saturday at the art center, located at 628 Michigan Ave. At the event, attendees learned the basics of mosaic-making and helped piece together the massive work.

Volunteers guided community members Saturday as they attached pieces of colorful glass and ceramics to panels using mortar. The Jeffersonville Arts Alliance will then finish and touch-up the mosaic, and installation on the facade of the NoCo Arts Center is expected to be completed by mid-May.

Jeffersonville resident Cathy Gruninger, who is a retired elementary school art teacher, said the mosaic-making session was right up her alley. She was happy to see a project that could involve the whole family, including young kids.

She has done a little bit of mosaic work in the past, but nothing quite as big as this piece. She said she loves the design, and she is looking forward to seeing the piece come together.

"I just love art, and I love how it has added so much attraction to our city," she said.

The Jeffersonville Public Art Commission and the Jeffersonville Arts Alliance have been working for about six-months to prepare the design and materials for the community mosaic-making session.

The mosaic will complement the colors and shapes of the nearby water tank mural, according to Dawn Spyker, the city's public art administrator.

The images are also symbolic of the area — the Ohio River runs through the mosaic in blue glass, and it is dotted in ceramics in the shape of trilobite and ammonite fossils like those found at the Falls of the Ohio. Ceramic railroad spikes represent the Big Four railroad.

The ammonite fossils have a nautilus, or spiral, shape, which symbolize perpetual change and emphasize how Southern Indiana is evolving as a community, Spyker said. More than 100 ceramic fossil replicas were created by students from Greater Clark County Schools to be embedded in the mosaic.

Spyker said the mosaic represents the "heart of the community coming together to make something bigger than just themselves."

"I feel like this mosaic is very symbolic of the spirit of this arts and cultural district right now," she said. "You see how many people are participating, which to me is really the heart and the energy of the whole initiative behind having NoCo come to fruition."

"I think, really, what it boils down to is, if we're really creating something together, we want it to represent who we are," she said. "Why would we want to make something that has nothing to do with us?"

The symbols represented in the mosaic do not just apply to Jeffersonville, Spyker said. They are also relevant to Southern Indiana in general, and she wants the center to be a place where they can all come together.

"The whole point of these sessions is that people can take them back to their own communities and do this," she said. "They can do this at home."

Jeffersonville Arts Alliance member Jennie DiBeneditto said the organization has been preparing the mosaic a few days a week for several months before the JAM session to make it easy for people to participate in the creation of the piece.

She said she appreciates that the mosaic involved so many members of the community.

"That's the amazing part, because even if you just come in and lay down one piece of glass, then you can drive past this building for years and years to come and say, I did that part," DiBeneditto said. "That's the piece I laid down."

The mosaic will be another element highlighting the creativity of the "colorful, vibrant city," she said. She likes that the design includes symbols representing the city.

"It's a mosaic about Jeffersonville, and I think that means a whole lot more than just having a polka-dotted wall," DiBeneditto said.

Chad Reischl, long-range planner for the City of Jeffersonville, said he came out to the mosaic session to get some "creative juices flowing."

"I think it's just another fun piece, and I think it's cool that it's a community-made piece as opposed as something we commissioned someone to make for the community," he said. "This is something the community built."

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