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Project Description: 

- Artist: Carolyn Elaine

- Participants: 6th & 7th grade students at Dixon Elementary School

- Sponsorship: This project is partially supported by the City of Chicago

Department of Cultural Affairs, Neighborhood Arts Program

- Broken Tile Mosaic- 120 sq ft Interior Installation 


In December of 2005, Carolyn Elaine introduced a group of 6th grade students at Dixon Elementary School to Kenyan Cultural Ambassador, Joseph Ole Koyei who was in the United States seeking education and health aid for his people. After entertaining everyone with stories of lion kills and a life time of roaming from place to place with his father, six mothers and 48 siblings in search of green grass for their cattle, many students expressed interest in becoming pen-pals with the Maasai children of his village. What started as an idea to promote a cultural exchange between students in the United States and those in Africa, culminated almost one year later, with the installation of a 120 sq ft mosaic artwork.


Over the course of ten months the students exchanged letters and photographs, exploring and broadened their awareness of one another. During this time Elaine combined the images and text from the correspondence to create a design for the interior mosaic artwork. The area surrounding the water fountains in the main hallway was selected as the installation site because water is a precious commodity for the Maasai and something most American students take for granted. Many of the letters received referred to the loss of cattle due to drought. Some children spoke of only being able to wash their face and hands everyday to preserve water for cooking.


The mosaic is entitled “Drink In Remembrance”. It depicts a village women offering water to Massai and Dixon Elementary School children. The photographs of the African pen-pals were transferred to ceramic tiles and included in the background along with quotations from their letters. The artistic elements that were fabricated in Elaine’s studio were juxtaposed with the students work in an onsite installation.


For two weeks in the month of October 2006, the entire population of Dixon Elementary School witnessed the gradual transformation of their water fountain wall. The (now, 7th grade) students rotated in groups of five to assist in directly applying each piece of tile to the mural. The opportunity to participate in, and experience this creative process encouraged all of the participants, both here and abroad, to think beyond their immediate environment and embrace a broader “world” community. This mural will catalogue the pen-pal experience of the Dixon students and serve as a constant reminder of the challenges that children in other parts of the world face on a daily basis.

Drink In Remembrance (2006)

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