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Revised Mosaic Project Gains Board Approval

By Staff | Dec 20, 2007

by Dan Voigt

A proposal to create a mosaic mural in the new construction for the Emmetsburg Community Schools was approved by the school board Monday, but in a different form than was originally proposed in November. The decision was arrived at following nearly an hour of discussion at the December meeting of the Emmetsburg School Board on Monday afternoon.

At its November meeting, the school board was presented with a proposal by Dr, Karen Ruddy of Emmetsburg to create a 450 square foot mosaic work, which would be built-in to the entryway of the new auditorium. Under her proposal the 450 students n grades one through eight in the local district would each design a one-foot square mosaic design. Their designs would be turned into the actual mosaic panels, and then those panels would be brought together to make the overall mosaic in the entry of the new auditorium. Once the designs were made, the actual mosaics would be constructed by volunteers, who could come from the school art programs, language arts, industrial arts classes, public service groups, and anyone who wanted to be involved, according to Ruddy. The mosaic panels would be assembled in a separate location, and then brought to the new auditorium and assembled into the final finished mosaic. As part of the process, each student would write a brief essay about his or her respective mosaic design, explaining what it represents to the student.

At that time, the board expressed several concerns over the timeline of the project, as well as concerns over the permanency of the mosaic; its size and possible precedents by letting an outside group decorate the district’s facilities. The board voted to table the proposal until December in order to gain more information and also to visit with the architect for the construction project, Matt Bayse.

During Monday’s meeting, Bayse was on hand along with a delegation of supporters of the mosaic project, including Anne Marie Nelson, who is working along with Ruddy on the concept, and LouAnn Huberty, representing the Palo Alto County Arts Council, who is supporting the project and applying for grant funding to aid in the project.

In opening the discussion on the proposal, Emmetsburg Superintendent John Joynt wasted little time in laying his cards on the table. “I’m really not recommending this project, because it’s really large and we don’t really know what it will look like when its done.”

Joynt then noted that since the project was originally proposed, the possible location of the mural had to be changed, due to structural concerns from the architects. However, a new location, the main hallway of the new middle school wing, had a hallway 90 feet long that could house the mural.

However, there was one small problem, Joynt noted. We got a letter from the State Fire Marshal and he says art work can only cover 10 percent of the wall space on a wall.

When I was first informed of this project, I corresponded with the Fire Marshal’s Office in Des Moines,” Matt Bayse, explained. “I wanted to get a clarification on this, and in his reply, he says the Code of Iowa says up to 10 percent of the total wall area can be covered with decorative material, which this mural would be. Now, the space is there on the wall for the whole mural, but the Code just doesn’t allow it.

This is a new thing that just came up at the end of last week,” Joynt noted. “That’s where we’re at right now.

I’d just like to say that on behalf of the Arts Council, this is the most permanent thing we’ve ever planned,” LouAnn Huberty spoke up. “My question would be if the artists be willing to do this on a smaller scale?

Bayse noted that as originally presented to him, the wall in the middle school was 120 feet long and nine feet high, but that the mural as proposed would be way over the 10 percent figure.

The parents of children in this age group that I’ve talked to are tremendously excited about this because of their kids’ potential,” Huberty said. “On behalf of the Arts Council, we would really like to see this project done.

Bayse was asked if the fire marshal was aware the artwork would be a mosaic.

Does that 10 percent apply even if its not paper-based art?” Anne Marie Nelson asked.

Did you mention it was a