When we visited Joplin in June to talk about how the tornado would impact our plans, a few people at the meetings we held at the Spiva suggested that we do some small, perhaps temporary, projects that would reestablish some points of reference and sense of direction in areas that were damaged by the storm. The group also felt that, in a landscape drained of color, embellishing damaged buildings and objects with beautiful handmade artworks might help raise spirits, inspire, and reconnect residents to their neighborhoods. I thought about this and offered that we might be able to make some small mosaics using found tile and objects on existing structures. I also knew it would be a lot of work...
A month or so later when the design team was just getting started, I asked them if they still wanted to make what we referred to as these 'Signs of Hope' out in the tornado path. They emphatically did and so we formed a small sub-design team of about seven people who began to research and design for this project. Our first question was where? Where was the right kind of place for these smaller artworks to go? And where could we quickly get permission to do them? The problem was solved when design team member Cleo offered that we could use the area around her house at 22nd & Pearl as a site for the projects.
At our next meeting, we visited Cleo's house, still standing but heavily damaged, and decided on three locations for our temporary projects - an 80+ year old tree stump left after the tree was taken down by the tornado, a small set of steps that had led to Cleo's front door, and four pillars at the entryway to South Middle School across the street from Cleo's.
Next, we began collecting bits and pieces of tile, glass, mirror, and other debris from around Cleo and Shaun's homes.
We brought all of this collected material back to the studio and started to design for our three sites - the stump and stairs we decided would be mosaic and the pillars in front of the school would be painted.