The American Visionary Art Museum exterior mosaic is nearing completion, with the western wall facing Federal Hill now adorned with a rendering of the aurora borealis.
The LeRoy E. Hoffberger Shining Youth/Shining Walls program was started in 2001 to be built by at-risk youth.
“It’s a living social justice and physical beauty project,” said Rebecca Hoffberger, who co-founded the museum with then-husband LeRoy.
The project first had students from nearby Southern High School — now Digital Harbor School —create the three-story mosaic that faces east toward Key Highway. Since then, the museum has worked with juveniles from the William Donald Schaefer House, transitional housing for young men in the Baltimore City penal system.
Those youth apprentices, who learned masonry and a variety of other hands-on construction and art skills, completed the café balcony surface in 2006, which features a sunset, moonrise and “planets” created by the young men. Phase III, which was expected to be completed on Oct. 17, was a multiyear project to decorate the wall of the main building that faces Federal Hill with an iridescent green and purple rendering of the northern lights.
The new section of the mosaic will be dedicated on Sunday, Oct. 26 at 3 p.m. The dedication is open to the public.“I made the design, but within my design are round spheres and planets. Those are designed entirely by the young men,” said Mari Gardner, the artist who has worked with the youth apprentices on the project since the café phase of the mosaic. “They’re not tough, bad guys like everybody likes to put labels on. They’re human beings; they have hearts; they want to express themselves.”
The last piece of the mosaic, to be completed in 2015, will cover the building’s top concrete crown in mosaics and crystals that will be visible from the other side of the harbor.