Jennifer McLaughlin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Markham Group of Artist’s (MGA) creation of a mosaic that adorns the foyer of Morgan Park pool is a perfect example of how “community can work together even at six feet apart.”
Linda Ruscio McIntosh of MGA made this assertion in closing her speech at the Morgan Park and Pool official re-opening celebration Aug. 27.
MGA is a “vibrant community of creatives that have been inspiring each other and the Markham area since 1981.”
The all-inclusive group of visual artists working in various mediums welcomes all skill levels, from beginner to professional.
Among the group’s endeavours, MGA produces collaborative mosaics for permanent installation in Markham and the surrounding area.
Their first mosaic was created in 2013 and hangs in Cornell Public Library. Mosaics in Thornhill Public Library, Markhaven Seniors Home, and the Richmond Hill Immigration and Welcome Centre in celebration of Canada 150 followed.
Each mosaic is composed of individual tiles, each one created by a different artist.
She described a mosaic as a “delightful discovery,” with so much for the viewer to see in one piece.
“First of all, you see the big picture from a distance, and then as you come in, you can hone in on all the individual squares that the artists created, and you find all kinds of hidden gems in there with their own stories to tell,” said Ruscio McIntosh.
The latest is the group’s fifth and largest mosaic, Coming Up Roses, unveiled at the Morgan Park celebration.
The park was once home to an expansive rose garden. Overseen by the Markham Horticultural Society, over 1,000 species of roses were planted there.
When discussing the revitalization of Morgan Park about ten years ago, the Markham Village Conservancy discussed the possibility of another rose garden; however, the community wanted the ball diamond to stay.
The Markham Village Conservancy commissioned the group to create a piece of art memorializing the rose garden as an important chapter of the park’s history.
Coming Up Roses was a collaboration between 20 MGA artists. The concept for the piece began in 2019. Unfortunately, the pandemic hit in the early stages of the design. No one expected the project would take over two years to complete.
Though faced with the challenge of doing a collaborative project while apart, the group, with Ruscio McIntosh at the helm, persevered.
She explained how she turned her garage into a combined studio and workshop. Artists would stop in to do their work at safe distances from one another. Vulnerable artists would have their materials dropped at their front door to work on in their own homes.
The mosaic’s design is a progression back into time. It reflects the historical past of Markham while merging the viewer into the present.
The top two rows depict the sky and include a collage of vintage photographs of buildings and residents from over 100 years ago. The bottom four rows pay homage to the rose garden. Indigenous cultures are also honoured throughout the piece.
The production of the mosaic was tricky. Consisting of 60 12-inch by 12-inch tiles eventually combined to create the final image, the entire process required a lot of back and forth.
Unfortunately, even when the final product was framed and hung, the pool centre was closed, and the group could not see the collaborative mosaic until the re-opening celebration.
Despite the obstacles, Ruscio McIntosh spoke of the experience as “a great opportunity for the local artists to use their time of self-isolation to create a wonderful and inspiring art for the community to enjoy after such challenging times.”
The group will be hanging its next collaborative mosaic in late fall 2022 at Larry Tod Place, a seniors’ residency building at the Cedarcrest site on Water Street in Markham.
Visit markhamartists.org for information.
Photo: Markham Group of Artists members, including Linda Ruscio McIntosh (right), celebrate seeing their collaborative mosaic for the first time at the Morgan Park and Pool re-opening.