The Astor Blog

Healing With Mosaic

How Astor Does Art

The stairway is etched with mosaic depicting former and current Astor staff and students.

The stairway is etched with mosaic depicting former and current Astor staff and students.

For the past 15 years, Roberta Andersen has been visiting the Astor Residence to work on mosaics. An artist by nature, Roberta’s first love was dance and movement. In fact, her first job (at fourteen years of age) was teaching her best friend’s younger sister, who was deaf and blind, how to move.

She first got into mosaics after a fire destroyed her home. With few possessions left, Roberta turned to an art form that helped soothe her during this stressful time. Mosaic is the art of creating images with an assemblage of small pieces of colored glass, stone, or other materials.

“There is a healing quality in putting fragmented products into a whole,” said Andersen.

Roberta Andersen, far left, sits with Astor staff and students partaking in a weekly mosaic project.

Roberta Andersen, far left, sits with Astor staff and students partaking in a weekly mosaic project.

Many of the children served in our Residential Programs have experienced trauma and tragedy, and being involved in the entire process of making a mosaic is rewarding to them. Roberta does not work with just one or two children; many little hands go into making a mosaic. All children who are interested take part in the process.

The Making of a Mosaic

Roberta begins with a concept of what they will create together, and then sketches her vision of the art piece. From that point on, the children are involved in every aspect of the process. They break the bowls with a hammer, glue appropriate-sized pieces onto the panel, clean the edges, and grout the joints.

“They do every part of the actual phase,” said Andersen.

Besides the Astor Residence in Rhinebeck, Roberta’s pieces can be found in Rhinebeck High School, Van Wyck High School, Titusville Central School and Two Boots Restaurant in Red Hook, New York.

It Takes a Village

Roberta and Anastasia work on the newest mosaic together.

Roberta and Anastasia work on the newest mosaic together.

The latest mosaic in the Residence is a gorgeous sunflower, which was hung up earlier this year.

The creation of this beautiful piece took about a year. Roberta and Kathleen Gavin, Art Therapist at Astor, worked collaboratively with as many kids as possible throughout the entire creative process.

The sunflower mosaic is a combination of ceramic pieces (most of which were originally dishes from the Dollar Store) and kiln-fired glass. The large center of the sunflower is three separate layers of glass, which were each heated in a kiln at different temperatures and then fused together. This method allowed for the many variations of texture in the glass and was literally an attempt to give the sunflower a more “true to nature” feel. The kids love to move their hands over this part of the mosaic, and can do so safely.

“We wanted the sunflower mosaic to be a strong, uplifting image of color and light in this area of the building designated for recreation and the expressive arts,” said Gavin.

The newest addition to Astor's Residential Facility is this gorgeous sunflower.

The newest addition to Astor’s Residential Facility is this gorgeous sunflower.

The children, staff and visitors to Astor look forward to seeing the breathtaking mosaic pieces that line Astor’s halls in our Residence in Rhinebeck. Andersen, Gavin and the kids are currently working on another nature piece. This time it is dahlias.

“I love coming down the hallway and seeing this art when I’m here,” said Josie Delgado-Freaney, Residential Treatment Facility (RTF) Recreation Specialist.