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Work on Helper Train Mosaic begins

Derek Way and son Granger smooth concrete for the base of mosaic mural.

Helper City, The Helper Arts and Music Festival and The Western Mining and Railroad Museum are building a 5- x 14-foot wall that will be the base of the first community mosaic project in Helper - "The Helper Train Mosaic".

Stephanie Fitzsimons, museum director, is renovating the courtyard immediately adjacent to the museum with pathways and indigenous plants along with railroad and mining artifacts placed among the public space. Park benches, an antique outdoor bread oven and a full-scale train caboose also adorn the space making it a quaint and quiet garden area for small events or just taking in the ambiance of the local scenery. The mosaic will be a focal point reflecting the surrounding mountains and railroad atmosphere.

Salt Lake City professional mosaic artist, Elise Lazar, has committed to design the mosaic that will capture the essence of the regional history of the railroad, and the coal and gas mining industry that shaped community of Helper and surrounding areas. Elise recently contributed to the design and implementation of the dazzling Sanpitch Dragon mosaic installed beneath the underpass of U.S. Route 89 in Gunnison.

Phase I of the project brings together local youths ages 7 through 18 to learn the art of mosaic tile-making during the 6-week Art-in-the-Park summer series coordinated by Bernice Robertson of Pinnacle Canyon Academy. With the help of local ceramicist, Kathleen Royster (whose work can be found in the Smithsonian Institute), they will learn to decorate, glaze and fire the tiles shaped like train cars in her studio kiln.

Phase II continues with the mosaic artist pulling together various elements of the design that will reflect the unique mountain range surrounding Helper, the railroad tracks and the mining relics that make up the distinct essence of Carbon County. The finished train cars made by the children and teens will be incorporated into the overall mosaic. Small trinkets and other memorabilia collected from local community members will also be added as a lasting legacy of the ancestors and descendants of this historic mining community.

This mosaic will become an area treasure much like the other attractions that lure motorists from U.S. Route 6 to Main Street - the "Big John" miner statue near the library, the entire historic commercial and district, art galleries, the stunning mountainous landscapes, and the Helper City River Parkway Trail Wall construction commenced June 18 with the generous help of Derek Way of Way Construction and the city of Helper. Geneva Rock, Howa & Sons, Central Commission and Sutherlands have supplied the necessary materials. The mosaic will be installed onto the wall in July, and the finished project will be unveiled during The 2012 Helper Arts and Music Festival.

A small dedication ceremony is planned and a plaque bearing the name of all of the generous cash and in-kind donors will be affixed permanently beside the wall. Donations can be sent to: The Helper Arts and Music Festival, P.O. Box 457, Helper, Utah 84526.

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