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Deeply-Rooted Tree Mosaic Honors 47th Ward's Seniors

By Patty Wetli | October 19, 2012 8:34am

RAVENSWOOD — A mosaic depicting a deeply rooted tree encircled by a ring of protective hands is the centerpiece of a new art exhibit honoring the contributions made by senior citizens in the 47th Ward.

"Roots of Our Community," a collaboration between the Chicago Mosaic School and 47th Ward office, is a nod to the positive influence that the community's oldest generation has had on the area.

"Our older residents who've lived here for a long time created the fabric of what you see today," said Karen Kolb Flude, a gerontologist by profession, who also heads the 47th Ward's Senior Council. The group brings together members of the community for activities that are not age-specific, such as art.

"We're trying to help increase the awareness and importance of people as they age," she said, adding that they want to counter the "infantilism and marginalization that comes with age."

The mosaic — along with the work of eight members of the Senior Artists Network who reside in the 47th Ward — will be on display at an exhibit at Dolce Casa Cafe on Damen Avenue Nov. 2 - 30.

"My greatest mentors are elderly people," said Karen Ami, founder of the Chicago Mosaic School, the only such institution in the United States. Seniors, she added, also comprised a sizable contingent of the school's students.

The low-tech aspect of the medium appealed to Mary Kirby, who's in her 60s.

"We always have to do, do, do...turn your cell phones off," said Kirby, who became hooked on the art form, which she's admired ever since visiting the Art Institute as a 10-year-old.

Kirby, who formerly pasted up movie ads for the now-defunct Plitt Theatre chain, enjoys the meditative aspect of mosaics, particularly in a "society that won't stop talking." She learned about the school through a Groupon, she said.

The idea for the mosaic came from Ami's desire to increase the school's community outreach. Learning of the Senior Council, she contacted Dara Salk in the 47th Ward office and a partnership was formed.

The project eventually grew to include Annette Abajian, president of Chicago's Senior Artists Network, which has been around since 1988. All of the artists are professionals, though some are just now returning to their chosen medium after a lengthy hiatus.

"One sculptor, his wife didn't even know," said Abajian.

The exhibit runs Nov. 2 - 30, with an opening reception set for Nov. 8 at 7 p.m.