News & Updates

Roosevelt “Grey Ghost” Williams

December 7, 1903 – July 17, 1996

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An ambitious first in our East Austin Mosaic Workshop Legacy Series, this mosaic mural of Roosevelt “Grey Ghost” Williams was completed over 8 weeks as part of the inaugural Mosaic Workshop.

After brainstorming with workshop participants about what to depict, we collectively decided upon Austin music, and specifically jazz and blues that has been played in the area since World War II.

One outgoing member Chuck Wimbrow took the initiative, did some research on his own and found some excellent photos of Williams, taken by local photographer Wyatt McSpadden at the Continental Club circa 1991.

With permission to adapt the image, and photo in-hand, we were able to use digital reference in placing the tens of thousands of individual glass tiles that comprise the face and hand sections of this iconic portrait.

Spending 4 weeks inside at Something Cool Studios fabricating, we then were ready as a team to install on the wall outside.

With a simple outline up for proportions, we proceeded to adhere the glass tiled panels. We improvised much of the jacket with larger stained glass pieces, the piano with salvaged ceramics and porcelain from The Tile Shop, the background of re-used mirror, as well as with unique, handmade ceramic molds and textures, generously donated by mosaic mirror queen Stephanie DiStefano herself! The nickname “The Grey Ghost” is subtly depicted, blending into the shattered mirror background, and only visible from certain angles and times of day, a ghostly yet poignant detail of the mural, and that which gives it a title, carrying on this iconic image of the legend himself for generations to come.

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With a resilient and dedicated team of volunteer artists, after 4 hard, hot weekends installing the mural outside, it was ready to be grout and polished. We had our share of cuts and scrapes, sweat and blood literally laden in the piece, sacrificed to get the sharp, heavy shards up, defying gravity and battling against time as grout and adhesive set up and harden at their own pace.

Looking back on the journey that took us through from concept to completion, I would say two words sum up the experience, “Solidarity” and “Perseverance.” With a collective vision and good communication as well as necessary teamwork between instructors and volunteers, artists and non-artists alike, learning new skills every step of the way, we were able to come together to pull of a massive project of monumental scale in just 8 short weeks and with only a relatively small budget. Strength in numbers, truly. Experiential learning at its finest.

Through resourcefulness and resilience we put salvaged materials creatively into the artwork, putting the groundwork in to source and collect materials as an effort in waste reduction, and in turn forged the broken discarded tile, mirror and glass into a beautiful community artwork made entirely by hand, that the neighborhood can rally around, find solace and take pride in, and learn and grow from for years to come.

The Mosaic Workshop was sponsored in part by a community initiatives grant through the City of Austin Cultural Arts Department, and with material donations from Travis Tile, The Tile Shop, participant donations of time and materials, and sustenance at our mural unveiling celebration held on September 28, 2019 from Southside Flying Pizza, Papalote and Maple Water. Our website was created by Katana Stab Studios. Funded and supported in part by the City of Austin through the Cultural Arts Division believing an investment in the Arts is an investment in Austin’s future.  (Visit Austin at NowPlayingAustin.com.)

Here are some images captured of the installation process by our photographer and friend Tony Moreno (@darkmode.atx):

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The Mosaic Workshop is J. Muzacz, Carmen Rangel and Genevieve Levicki. Follow us on Instagram @atxmosaicworkshop or Facebook: The Mosaic Workshop

www.themosaicworkshop.org

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