Belchertown Library Mural

My Experience as a Visiting Artist in Belchertown

For 6 weeks this past winter, I had the pleasure of working as a visiting artist at Belchertown High School with 3 art classes (a total of 34 students) to design and create a mosaic mural for the town library. The students were a mix of grades 9-12, students of Lori St. Pierre. Lori and I wrote a grant together to the Massachusetts Cultural Council to fund the project.

For many of the students, this was their first awareness of mosaics, though some had seen mosaics in parks or in airports before. We talked about how mosaic art can teach us about a culture. Each student made his or her own mini mosaic- a 4” x 4” work that they got to keep, that also served as a way to practice working in the medium- cutting glass, learning about the way shapes fit together, and the technical aspects of how it all gets attached and grouted. Here are just a few of the wonderfully creative pieces they made:

Then, together as a class, we made lists of ideas of what is special about Belchertown. For some students, this was a challenging exercise, and I can appreciate how hard it is to recognize the uniqueness of where you’re from if you haven’t yet lived in other places! But we came up with lots of subject matter, and the students spent a few days sketching out their ideas. Here are just some of the sketches they made:

Then I worked in my studio, using the students sketches to compose a scene depicting Belchertown. For me, this was the hardest part of the whole project, figuring out how to include a representation of every category of items the students had drawn. I decided to feature the landscape, the Quabbin Reservoir and Swift River, wild animals, farm animals, an apple tree, a maple tree with taps, a ferris wheel to represent the Belchertown Fair, a soccer player and band member, and of course, the Clapp Memorial Library– which was to become the destination of the mural. I had design input from Lori, as well as my mother, Cathy Kenneally, who is somewhat of a legend in the Belchertown schools, having been the elementary art teacher for 20 years. She retired last June.

After February break, I returned to school with a full size color rendering of the design (3’ x 4’) and students got to work making the mosaic.


One at a time, as the sections were completed, we assembled them onto a “master” and students began to work on the background areas. It was a wonderful example of teamwork, compromise and collaboration.


When the whole mural was completed, I did the job of attaching it to a lightweight board, called WEDI board, through a series of flipping sections, spreading mortar to the right thickness, and then assembling a team (including Lori, my mother and one of the school custodians) to help flip the whole thing back over, because by that point it was heavy!

On the last day, we grouted the mosaic:

The installation at the library happened one evening after closing. Greg, the library custodian lent his assistance and my husband Bill was there to help (as he often is when I’m doing an installation). The frame, which was made of steel, by my friend Pat Bennet, was bolted to the wall, and the mosaic secured to the frame with a cleat system. In this way, if they ever need to take it down, it will be easy to do so.

Finally, on April 6, it was time to have our celebration of the mural. We had covered it with paper, to allow for a dramatic unveiling and many of the students and their families attended the event, along with many members of the community- the school board, library trustees and even a photographer from A local baker decorated a big sheet cake to look like the mural, which was so awesome!

I could not be more pleased with this experience, and with the outcome. Belchertown now has a piece of public art to be proud of, and the students who made it will be able to come back year after year, eventually bringing their own children to see the work they participated in. I am so grateful to all who made this possible, especially Lori St Pierre, Sheila McCormick, the Library Director, and to the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

Click here to read the article in the Daily Hampshire Gazette about this project.

Click here to read the article in the Belchertown Sentinel about this project.

Click here to view photos of the reception on

Students at the reception


Lori St. Pierre and I, at the Clapp Memorial Library

Make a Mosaic House Number This Winter!

Add Fun & Creativity to Your Monday Evenings this Winter

Do you want to spice up the front of your house in a really personalized way? If so, then make a mosaic number plaque for your house!

In response to numerous requests, I am offering this course as a 7 week series on Monday evenings in my studio, beginning January 30. There are a few spots left so I wanted to make sure to get the word out. This will be a really fun way to use a variety of materials (glass, pottery, tile, stone, etc), while working in the indirect method, and creating a functional, customized piece of art for the front of your house. You can include imagery that is special to you, or that reflects the landscape, in addition to the number itself. These are going to be true works of art.

Another special feature to this project is the frame: handmade by local metal sculptor Pat Bennet from Holyoke. You will have your choice between a couple of different sizes of these beautiful steel frames to attach the mosaic to your house.

Read the full description and sign up here. Or contact me if you have questions.

And… gift certificates are available in any amount, so you can gift this class, or a portion of the tuition to a creative friend or family member.

Make this a winter filled with creativity!

Happy Solstice!

Tufted Titmice by Noel Watkins, Student

Sunrise over the Range and the Changing Seasons

How a Kitchen Mosaic Came to Life

Throughout this winter and early spring, I designed, created and installed what I feel is my best work to date. The teacher in me feels compelled to share a little bit about the process, I hope you enjoy!

Last fall, my clients Michael and Jette, who have also become good friends, began designing and making plans for a complete kitchen makeover in their house in Florence. Though Michael is a poet and literary translator, he worked for many years as a contractor, so he has done many kitchen renovations. He always knew that when it came time to do his own kitchen, that it would combine the best features that he had seen in all of the others; it would be the kitchen of his and Jette’s dreams. Every single element of the kitchen is custom built, top of the line and very intentional.

As for the mosaic, they knew they wanted an impressionistic style landscape to span the entire kitchen (almost 40 square feet of wall space), including elements of nature such as water, hills, trees, sky, sunrise and sunset. They wanted it to span the different times of day and different seasons of the year. Because their house is surrounded by nature and woods, they wanted to bring that nature right inside the house!

In December, I began working on the design. Here is a picture of one version, which I made minor changes to.
It’s done in watercolors, to scale.

Goldman Painted Design

Michael and Jette were instrumental in the design process, and were very good at communicating what they liked and what they wanted to see changed. I was so grateful for that! Once we were all in agreement about the design, I re-painted it to the full size. Then, I shopped for the materials. I purchased sheets of stained glass from a company called Delphi, and began the epic process of cutting and arranging the pieces, laying them out directly over the full sized design. They were held down temporarily on sheets of contact paper, my favorite method of assembly, called the Double Reverse Method. I worked on this stage for about 6 weeks.

Here are a few pictures of that process:




When I was finished, I covered the entire mosaic with another sheet of contact paper, cut it into about 40 sections (each was roughly 1 square foot) and made a map with hashmarks so I would know exactly how the pieces fit back together. This made it easy to stack the sections and bring them to Michael and Jette’s house for installation.

Here are some pictures of the mosaic all cut up!



By the time I was finished, it was early April, and the rest of the kitchen had been completed, so it was time to install it! The beautiful wooden countertop and cabinets, the stainless steel sink, the floor, the window had all been replaced and looked stunning. Michael worked with me to install the mosaic, which was wonderful. All of his tile setting experience was so valuable and made the process more efficient than if I had hired someone with less experience to assist me.

We re-assembled the sections of mosaic on the floor in the dining room and peeled off the contact paper from the back side of the glass, so it was face-mounted on the contact paper. Then, we mixed up the mortar one small batch at a time and troweled it onto the wall in sections. Together, we lifted each section of mosaic, carefully so the pieces stayed intact, and affixed them in place on the wall. This process took almost three days. The corner seams and edges around all of the outlets required some extra attention and fine-tuning, but the beauty of mosaic is that it’s all in pieces anyway, so adjustments are a normal part of the process!



Once the mortar started to set, we could peel off the contact paper from the surface. After the mortar had set completely (the next day) we grouted the whole piece. We settled on four different colors of grout, to enhance the design. The goal is that the grout color isn’t the most obvious thing you notice, that it complements the colors of the mosaic. I think we chose the right colors because there is a harmonious feeling.

Overall, I am thrilled with the outcome and very proud to show it off. I am grateful to Michael and Jette for giving me the opportunity to really stretch myself as an artist. They were so supportive and communicative all throughout. This process required me to take risks artistically and to work in an impressionistic style that I hadn’t tried before, but I am intrigued to further explore.

I am excited to take on more projects of this scale, and hope that by sharing the photos and a little bit about the process, I will encounter the next opportunity!

Impressionistic Landscape Mosaic Backsplash, Goldman Kitchen, Florence, MA

Impressionistic Landscape Mosaic Backsplash, Goldman Kitchen, Florence, MA

Click here to see more photos