Mother Clara Hale Bus Depot
Mother Clara’s Garden, 2013
Glass and ceramic mosaic, laminated glass
Graced with exuberant brush strokes and a vibrant collage, Mother Clara’s Garden created by Shinique Smith is inspired by the loving and generous nature of Mother Clara Hale who, for more than 50 years, cared for children -- orphaned, sick and from broken homes -- and helped transform their lives. Totaling approximately 6,672 square feet, the monumental artwork is composed of mosaic located on the façade and laminated glass in windows of the new Mother Clara Hale Bus Depot building located on Lenox Avenue between 146th and 147th Street in Central Harlem.
Shinique Smith collected clothing, fabric and other cast-off materials from the community surrounding Hale House and the Mother Clara Hale Bus Depot to incorporate in her original artwork. A child’s drawing of a bus stop found near Hale House influenced her deeply and became the source of inspiration for the artwork.
“This (child’s) drawing inspired my palette,” Smith said. “We are all connected by childhood dreams and memories threaded through clothing and the things we consume and discard. I have taken these unwanted bits and woven them into a garden in an attempt to embody the spirit of Mother Clara, creating beauty and grace from humble materials.”
Smith works in a variety of artistic media, including collage, painting, sculpture, and video. Her work is known for the vast vocabulary of collected objects that alternate with fluid calligraphic lines and movement, suggestive of qualities that resonate on a personal and social scale. The original work of Mother Clara’s Garden is composed of ten large‐scale panels of colorful painted collage and centers on a spiritual motif of mother and child‐like figures embracing in an abstracted garden. Smith worked with Mosaika Art & Design to translate the original work into mosaic, using tiles uniquely made for the project to create roughness and texture on the surface, a process similar to a collage. In May 2012, Smith worked with first grade students at PS 242, Young Diplomats Magnet Academy, to draw flowers and incorporated the drawings into the art glass for the north and south windows of the Bus Depot building. The art glass is fabricated by Peters Studios.
In keeping with the new Mother Clara Bus Depot status as a certified green building, Mother Clara’s Garden was created by weaving discarded materials into a vibrant garden. The result is a monumental work as the artist’s tribute to Mother Clara Hale as well as to the people in the community.
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