Dedicating a gift for the ages
Some day, ages from now, some grey-haired old person will take a grandchild to see the Helper Railroad Mosaic. The grandparent will point to one of the brightly-colored ceramic train cars and say, "This is the one I made when I was your age."
That's the vision that inspired the idea to build a durable work of outside art last year. It led to the multigenerational teamwork that got the job done.
The town paid tribute to that creativity and effort last Friday at the dedication ceremony for the mosaic.
Elise Lazar, the artist who designed the work, was there. Her husband Jerry, who invested "sweat equity" with her during the hot summer days of 2012 mounting the broken tile chips one-by-one, joined her at the dedication.
Jinni Fontana chaired last year's Arts and Music Festival and was responsible for getting the artist's commission and rounding up the funds for the project.
During her remarks at the dedication, she praised the members of the community who supported the effort. There were artists who taught the children how to make the ceramic train cars. There were local businesses who gave their time and talent and supplied donated or discounted materials.
There was the Utah Division of Arts & Museums that gave a grant for a Random Act of Art; and there was the Helper City Council that gave its full support to the art work.
The creation is about five feet tall and 14 feet wide. Its colorful design shows the geology and geography of Helper, ranging from the underground strata - with a coal seam - to a sky overhead studded with blue jewels and Swarovsky crystals. Viewers can make out the railroad, Highway Six and the Price River, too.
Elise Lazar told the crowd that she embedded small mirror tiles across the work "so that people can see themselves in a work of art. They can become a part of it."
The artist has also added little touches like sea shells and ceramic lady bugs that reward people who look closely.
A pale circle in the sky represents the full moon which was over Helper when the mosaic was assembled last year.
Not readily apparent in the design is the gentle curvature of the wall. It is not flat, but slightly S-shaped, like those elongated integral symbols mathematicians use in calculus.
The mosaic itself is intended to make a difference in the lot adjacent to the Mining and Railroad Museum.
It will serve as a centerpiece for a paved area where visitors can sit and relax beside the museum.
Lazar said she did not know much about Helper when she began the mosaic design but as she worked she came to love the place and people.