Community Art Project Creates More than Just a Mosaic for Churches United

They didn't see identity during this project nor did they reflect on homeless versus not homeless

MOORHEAD, Minn. — Churches United was looking for a way to bring their chapel to life, giving residents more of a reason to use the space for personal use.

Their unique project connected volunteers around the valley with homeless people in our community.

“People I think are not using the chapel because it’s so dull in there and I think they’ll actually appreciate the chapel a little more,” said Vena Edwards, a resident at Churches United.

That’s how many of the artists feel about a mosaic that will soon be on display in the chapel.

“It’s rare I think at a homeless shelter to have a kind of project where people are volunteering on an equal level,” said Pastor Joe Larson, the designer of the mosaic.

They didn’t see identity during this project nor did they reflect on homeless versus not homeless…they collaborated as one. Creating a mosaic over four months. together as artists.

“This group has been awesome. I’ve gotten to know a lot of them. We laugh we joke we tell stories,” Vena said.

“People shared very personal things about their lives, people become friends,” Joe said.

“There are more than 24 volunteers who have at one time or another worked on the mosaic some of those folks have been guests here at the shelter others have been community members. I’ve placed a tile or two some other staff have placed a tile or two,” said Pastor Sue Koesterman, the Executive Director of Churches United.

The unique relationships and bonds formed during their Tuesday afternoon crafting helped each volunteer develop a new understanding.

“A lot of us are one or two paychecks away from being homeless ya know homelessness can seem like a very foreign issue but it’s not,” Joe said.

Vena stays at Churches United, which she says has changed her life and her future.

“It’s given me a safe place to go with her…I think more projects like this, it lets volunteers come in and see just what the homeless need,” Vena said.

The mosaic is a representative of the tree of life.

“We wanted to come up with a symbol that would be meaningful to people from different faith backgrounds,” Joe said.

But each tile and each piece placed on the mural has meaning behind it.

Spread out throughout the design, and on the end of each branch are small mirrors giving people a chance to see themselves while observing the artwork.

“That I’m not alone, that I’m not the only tree in this field that there are other people that care,” Joe said.

Throughout the last four months these people are created a piece to bring meaning to others.

But they have also found a group that they’d like to continue creating projects with.

“That by itself is an amazing miracle,” Joe said.

They are ready to finalize the last few steps and put their artwork on display.

“To see it come to fruition and actually happen it’s very heart warming for me,” Joe said.

“We’re very excited about it, this has been a great project,” Sue said.

But they also couldn’t be more grateful for the journey they took to get there.

The group is hoping to create another piece for Churches United’s new apartment building Bright Sky apartments.

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