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Paula H. Polglase

A placemark in JMU history

Artist and 40 student organizations create a diversity mosaic

When artist and JMU employee Sarah Swanlund pulled back the paper to unveil the Rose Library’s new Diversity Mosaic, the crowd burst into applause and students rushed to spy their own pieces in the 48-foot work of art. JMU President Jonathan R. Alger asked the crowd to reflect on the importance of the campus community creating a great work of art for a library that focuses on the sciences.“Using mosaic is a great way to demonstrate how all the different pieces of our community come together to create something beautiful, beyond what any one of us could create on our own,” Alger said.

A mosaic artist for 10 years, Swanlund joined the Rose Library staff in 2012. She soon noticed the possibility for a major piece of art. Having created mosaics for Clemons Library at U.Va. and the Jefferson Madison Regional Library, Swanlund thought, “There’s got to be a way I can bring the JMU community together to create something.” Her timing was fortuitous as the JMU Office of Diversity was calling for proposals for the annual Innovative Diversity Efforts Award.Swanlund and two colleagues wrote a proposal to help students create a diversity mosaic in Rose Library. Swanlund used award funds to purchase 130 pounds of glass tile, 50 pounds of grout and 36 tubes of industrial glue. She fashioned 24 wood canvases, crafted a design plan and offered workshops for the student artists. The mosaic’s theme is “The Night Sky.” Swanlund arranged glass tiles that swirl with deep color to create the background.However, it is the shapes within the mosaic that really stand out. There are 40 orbs and stars created by representatives from 40 JMU student organizations. Swanlund left the individual tile designs up to the students. Calvin Walker, a senior political science major from Richmond, Va., created the tile for the Xi Delta chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. “I put several reflective/mirror pieces on the mosaic piece so when people walked by they can literally see themselves and their own diversity in it,” says Walker. “The mosaic is a representation of the eclecticism and variety that is seen daily on campus.”

Sophomore A. Kathy Corena who created the Student Government Association’s star says, “I think it’s important, because it allows students to leave a little piece of them and their organization at JMU.”