Tiles keep breaking, glue doesn’t stick in the cold

    It would seem pretty apparent to anyone who drives by the Chamber of Commerce building on Second Street that Gary Stegman's mosaic mural is a work-in-progress that has been drawn out longer than the Crookston High School art teacher probably envisioned.    

    His tiled mural art piece, which depicts the Crookston's historic Palace Hotel lobby from its glory days as well as some inspirational and philosophical words, has, plain and simple, been a difficult project so far.    

    Stegman, who originally estimated approximately 500 hours of work time from start to finish, has already logged his estimated amount and still has more work to do in order to finish it. Consequently, the mural contains 1,350 pieces, and already 1,600 pieces have been made and remade and made and remade and repeated.    

    So why has the mural been delayed such a lengthy time? Blame  clay breaks in the kiln and cracks. "It's not thermal shock clay," Stegman explained. "It simply breaks in the kiln. It's not the kind we use in class, it's a special kind, and for whatever reason it keeps breaking.   

    "There are two things that are slowing the process down," Stegman continued. "First, the tiles have to keep being remade; that was not taken into consideration when planning and beginning the mural. Secondly, the weather has come into effect; the glue that is used to seal the mural pieces to the wall cannot be used in weather that is under 50 degrees Fahrenheit." Due to the fact that the calendar is more than halfway through November, it's looking like Stegman won't tackle the project again for several months.   

    Another interesting and determining factor that is delaying the construction of the mural is the process by which it's installed. Each piece has to be placed from the bottom up and from the inside out. If one piece is missing or breaks, then the entire row/ column that housed that individual piece has to be redone. "You can't just slip one in later because of the way it's designed." Stegman explained.   

    Currently, all of tiles have been made and/ or remade. Stegman plans to have the mural done by the spring of 2014 and has high hopes that it might even be done by the time graduation rolls around.    

    Stegman is the recipient of a $10,000 Northwest Minnesota Arts Council grant that is aiding and enabling him in the process of planning, designing and creating the mural.