The tiles that bind

Students, community have fun creating mosaic tile mural for Soto School

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, left, and artist Joanne Hunter watch as Madeline Shumyhara, 2, places a tile on what will become part of a mosaic mural at Soto School. — Melvin Mason photo

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, left, and artist Joanne Hunter watch as Madeline Shumyhara, 2, places a tile on what will become part of a mosaic mural at Soto School. — Melvin Mason photo

Tiles are commonly used to accent the look of certain parts of the home. And rarely is it acceptable to have them broken into pieces.

Students and visitors at Victoria Soto School have been breaking the tiles and the rules, in a sense. All to make something beautiful and rather shiny for the school’s main hallway.

Saturday was a day for visitors to Soto School to help build a tile mural.

Members of Victoria Soto’s family joined residents and some Soto School students in placing cracked pieces of tile onto abstract paintings that will make up a 60-foot long mural. The abstract is evocative of dawn at the beach.

The project, in the works for about a year and a half, has students from Soto School along with those at Stratford Academy Johnson House placing tile pieces onto the mural. The project is funded by contributions of the Victoria Soto Memorial Fund, the Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County and the Stratford Arts Commission, among others, said Megan McCool, chairperson of the Stratford Academy PTSA’s cultural arts committee.

“We’re slowly but surely putting these mosaic tile pieces on. It’s exciting to me because it’s a true piece of collaborative art,” she said.

McCool said it’s special because there’s community involvement.

“It’s not artists painting something and us buying it and putting something on a wall. It’s all the kids and all the people getting together, talking and creating and having fun and figuring things out and putting it all together that will stay for a long time,” McCool said.

Members of Victoria Soto’s family work on placing tiles on portions of what will become a mural that will hang at Victoria Soto School. — Melvin Mason photo

Members of Victoria Soto’s family work on placing tiles on portions of what will become a mural that will hang at Victoria Soto School. — Melvin Mason photo

Soto family members had already worked on the huge “Be Kind” mural that hangs in the hallway, the saying a mantra of Victoria Soto, the Stratford native and Sandy Hook Elementary School teacher who died more than three years ago in a shooting that claimed 26 lives.

Victoria Soto’s father Carlos, who was working on one of the murals, said he’s certain his daughter would be smiling seeing the community collaboration.

“Right now, I know my daughter is looking down and saying, ‘this is so beautiful,’” Carlos Soto said. “First was the school, then the mural we did and now this adding to her new school and the kids enjoying and being part of it,” he said.

Katharina Winzler of Stratford works on adding a piece of tile to the mural that will soon hang at Victoria Soto School. — Melvin Mason photo

Katharina Winzler of Stratford works on adding a piece of tile to the mural that will soon hang at Victoria Soto School. — Melvin Mason photo

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal also helped placed some tiles during his brief visit to Soto School. He agreed that Victoria Soto would be pleased.

“The spirit and sense of giving back is so powerful here and just the sight of all these people working together in this project brings back memories of grief, but also great happiness,” he said. “They are really creating something that will last and inspire people for a long time.”

The mural will be placed in the hallway at Soto School in April with it officially being introduced after Stratford Public Schools return from spring break.

About author
Editor for the Stratford Star. Former reporter for the Darien Times.

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