Disrupting Social Isolation with Glass
Mosaic mural project, "Confluence," a community-building project led by Artists Todd Beaty and Crystal Meneses in collaboration with Bullseye Employee Glass Studio (BEGS) and the Maybelle Center for Community, 2021.
November 23, 2021
Hidden in Portland’s Old Town, beyond a maze of rooms and doors, there is a courtyard that gleams with a 460-square-foot mosaic made of Bullseye glass. The artwork is titled “Confluence.” Made by over 300 collaborators, it consists of nearly sixty-thousand individually-cut pieces of handmade colored glass. As an artwork, and as a community achievement, it represents the beauty and power of collective action.
The project started during the thick of the pandemic lockdowns. That’s when a Portland nonprofit, the Maybelle Center for Community, reached out to local artist Crystal Meneses to ask about the possibility of disrupting social isolation through a collaborative art project. Intrigued, Meneses reached out to Todd Beaty, a glass artist, sculptor, and the Casting Supervisor at Bullseye Glass Co. Would it be possible, Meneses wondered, for Maybelle’s community to create a mosaic mural together using colored glass? The question got Beaty’s wheels turning. Inspired, he set to work.
First, he drew up a pastel sketch of a bird’s-eye view of where the Willamette and Columbia Rivers meet. The image not only referenced Portland’s geography and communities, it provided a way to express joy at the prospect of lockdown giving way to a time of renewed color, life, and connection. Next, Beaty landed on the idea of creating the mosaic with discarded glass from Bullseye’s recycle bin. Given that the Maybelle Center serves and houses at-risk Portlanders who are grappling with poverty and isolation, the choice lent the project an added layer of metaphorical power. Like the glass in the recycle bin, the members of the Maybelle Center were seemingly set aside, but oh-so-ready to shine. As one member put it, “We’re discarded, but not useless.”
With the art sketch and material plan in place, Beaty began collecting glass scraps from cutdowns, tips and tails from mixes, and test patties—around 800 Ibs worth! Members of the Bullseye Employee Glass Studio (BEGS) and a few extra volunteers then helped process that glass into over 55,000 tesserae, in approximately twenty-five different colors. Next, members of the Maybelle Center community helped assemble those tesserae into hundreds of mosaic mural tiles. And finally, when the tiles were ready, two volunteers installed them on the wall. In the end, all of these people used all of that glass to trade isolation for connection, and a mundane wall for a mural of wonder.
On October 17, 2021, the community celebrated the mural’s official installation. To date, it is the largest project produced in association with BEGS. For more information on the story, the work of the Maybelle Center for Community, and the lead artists, visit https://www.maybellecenter.org/mosaic/.
A big thanks to all who contributed to this inspiring project (those from outside Bullseye Glass are listed in italics):
Project leads - Todd Beaty and Crystal Meneses
Team tesserae - Patrick Tubbs, Corey Granados, Sarah Milliron, Kristen Koehler, Jared Sadowsky, Ryan Johnson, Hazel Talent, Bryanna Pyle, Kyle Anderson-Schuldt, Travis Jones, Andy Sterling, and the 300+ volunteers from the Maybelle Center for Community
Installers - Creed Taylor, James Nickerson
Special patrons - Dan Schwoerer and Lani McGregor