Ken Smith/Turnagain Times
Artist Pat Shelton lays down tile as she works on the mosaic floor in the entrance hall of the Girdwood Community and Library Center. The floor was the final project to be completed at the new public building which opened at the end of May. Shelton and a team of tile specialists finished the floor last month.
By Ken Smith
Girdwood’s Community Center and Library is by far the finest public building in town. It opened May 30 with a grand celebration. Architecturally it is a beautifully designed building with large stone pillars supporting the entrance overhang,.Bright and spacious rooms with cathedral style ceilings complement the well-thought out public displays and artwork.
But one thing that was missing and hard to overlook was the lack of a finished floor in the entrance hall of the building. Drab, concrete was all that greeted visitors as they walked over the floor. A grand mosaic floor was suppose to be there, but delays in shipping held off the artist, Pat Shelton, from completing the final piece of this grand public building.
However, last month, the last tile was laid in place and the mosaic floor was completed. Nearly five months late, the building has its entrance floor. And by all appearances, it was worth the wait.
Interviewed during her final week of installing the tiles, Shelton said she worked for six months straight, seven days a week until the mosaic was completed and ready for installation. She said she chose tiles that would stand up to high traffic and at the same time accomplish the visual design she was after.
“I used the unglazed porcelain to have a matt finish just to have some contrast to the visual textural quality of the glass,” she said.
The glass tiles are made of three types of glass and were imported from Italy, which was the reason for the delay in delivery—the tile was held up in customs for two months.
“I started the project in December,” she said, “doing the drawing for the berry patches and when the drawing was done, I started laying out the berry patches. All the berry patches and snowflakes were face mounted with a mosaic film.”
Shelton hired a team of assistants to help her: Ted and Austin Gardeline and Daniel Riley and Christopher Walton.
Once completed, the mosaic was cut up into sections and brought to the community center where Shelton and a group of tile specialists: John Tweit of Classic Tile Service and his crew of A.D. Richison, Scott Rynerson, John Curry and Chris Butler, and Shelton’s assistants Ted and Austin Gardeline.
Once installed the work was done and the community center had its mosaic floor. Shelton named the mosaic “Giant snowflakes and little berries.”
“This was my largest project,” she said. “I think it’s a series of accomplishments, but it’s also rewarding to see how people respond to the work. While we were installing it, people had a chance to see it from children to elderly visitors. And the response was very positive and it was a lot of fun.”
Shelton used dense durable tile to stand up to the heavy foot traffic, but she asks that people not walk over it in ice cleats during winter because the tiles will get marked up, especially the glass tiles, which she said were used for their reflective quality and for color.
“I looked and looked for tiles that would be good for snowflakes, for depth and transparency,” she said.
The mosaic floor was funded by “One Percent for Art,” a state program that dedicates one percent of the construction budget for public art projects. The program is limited to Alaska artists.Shelton was chosen over other artists vying for the $50,000 contract.
She’s been working as an artist for 34 years and has a background in painting, drawing and fiber.
“I think the mosaic art fits all of them,” she said. “The mosaics, the berry patches, are all designed exactly like you would doing something you’d weave on a loom.”
Shelton is originally from San Antonio, Texas. She moved to Alaska in 1990 and lives in Anchorage. She completed her first mosaic in 1998, which she keeps in her home. She has another public project on display at Begich Middle School where there are five benches that are powder coated steel with a mosaic surface.
Now her largest mosaic is on display in Girdwood.
“I will come back,” she said. “I like Girdwood, I like to hike here, the restaurants are very good, and the people have been wonderful. And I’ll come back to see how the floors doing. But it’s really like children, sometimes you have to let them go. That’s what it’s like with public art. It’s not mine anymore.”