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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 Joseph Ole Koyei, a Kenyan Cultural Ambassador who was in the United States seeking education and health aid for his people. Joseph regaled the students with captivating stories of lion hunts and a nomadic life alongside his father, six mothers, and 48 siblings, as they roamed in search of green pastures for their cattle. His visit sparked a deep interest among many students to become pen-pals with the Maasai children from his village. What initially began as an idea to foster cultural exchange between American and African students culminated almost a year later in the creation of a 120 sq ft mosaic artwork.


Over the course of ten months, the students engaged in letter and photograph exchanges, expanding their understanding of one another's lives. During this period, Elaine meticulously incorporated the images and text from their correspondence to craft a design for an interior mosaic artwork. The location chosen for this installation was the area surrounding the water fountains in the main hallway, symbolizing the preciousness of water for the Maasai, something often taken for granted by American students. Many of the received letters spoke of cattle losses due to drought, and some children mentioned using water conservatively, reserving it primarily for cooking.


Titled "Drink In Remembrance," the mosaic portrays a village woman offering water to both Maasai and Dixon Elementary School children. The photographs of the African pen-pals were transferred onto ceramic tiles and integrated into the background, along with quotes from their letters. The artistic elements created in Elaine's studio were thoughtfully juxtaposed with the students' contributions in an onsite installation.


For two weeks in October 2006, the entire Dixon Elementary School community bore witness to the gradual transformation of their water fountain wall. The 7th-grade students at the time worked in rotating groups of five, actively participating in the direct application of each tile to the mural. This hands-on experience in the creative process encouraged all participants, both locally and abroad, to broaden their perspectives beyond their immediate surroundings and embrace a more extensive "world" community. This mural serves as a lasting testament to the pen-pal experience of Dixon's students and a constant reminder of the daily challenges faced by children in other parts of the world.

Drink In Remembrance (2006)

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