During the 2018 NCECA Convention downtown at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, a community-inspired mosaic will be completed with help from visitors from around the globe

By: Neil Strebig

Just across the Allegheny River are thousands of ceramic pieces, that were gathered here in the Northside. Now each of those pieces is being crafted by hand to form a mosaic called, “Unity Shards.”

The community-inspired project was designed by artist Laura Jean McLaughlin who wanted to create a collaborative mosaic that was symbolic of two shared experiences: visiting the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) Convention and working with ceramic tiles.

“It stems from people coming together not just for the convention but working together side-by-side to make something beautiful,” said McLaughlin.

The mosaic will be compiled of 40 separate concrete panels with approximately 40 pounds of ceramic and clay materials that were collected through donations at Alphabet City Bookstore, Manchester Craftsman Guild and other locations throughout Pittsburgh.

However, McLaughlin will not be completing the project herself. Instead, she has created an interactive workstation at one of the convention’s “project spaces” where visitors from across the globe can help take part in the completion of the project.

“It’s inspirational,” said Patrica Isenhour a ceramic art teacher from Virginia Beach. “It’s a great idea for [the] community.”

Once completed, the Unity Shards project will be moved to the City of Asylum’s Alphabet City Garden near the Mattress Factory.

Visitors can help lend a hand on the “Unity Shards” project on Wednesday, March 14 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday, March 15 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Friday, March 15 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. A number of galleries, exhibits and project spaces like ‘Unity Shards’ are free to attend. For additional information visit the NCECA’s website.

The NCECA Convention runs from March 14 to 17.


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