A colorful mosaic tribute, displayed on a wall behind the fine arts building, stands as a symbolic memorial to the eight students and one teacher who lost their lives on Oct. 1, 2015. Eight blue and one red-colored dragonfly embody the spirit of those individuals.
“We started it in November of 2015,” Susan Rochester, head of the fine arts department said. “It’s a monument to the idea of community, but I also think the beauty of the mosaic is important. It stands as a reminder that no matter how difficult life is, we are only guaranteed this one single moment that we are in right now, and that’s a beautiful gift.”
One of the nine victims, teacher Larry Levine, was enthralled with a red dragonfly he came across on one of his fishing trips and had discussed it on the morning of the shooting. Therefore, in Levine’s memory, Rochester and former UCC student Kindra Neely decided to create a red dragonfly to contrast with the other eight blue dragonflies displayed on the wall.
Neely, who graduated in 2016, drew the dragonflies and came up with the main concept. She was inspired by Levine’s story as well as the symbolism behind dragonflies representing transformation in Native American culture. Both Rochester and Neely worked 20 hours a week on the project.
To date, the project is approximately 40 percent completed. The finished product is expected to contain approximately 750,000 tiles. Although the cost of almost a million tiles seems daunting, ASUCC provided approximately two-thirds of the funding, while donations through the art gallery covered the rest.
The mosaic was planned to be finished within a year, but the deadline met with some setbacks.
Since Rochester works full time and a lack of volunteers often creates delays in the mosaic’s progress, the responsibility of this enormous project rests on her shoulders.
“We still need to get the rest of the tiles laid and grouted. The grouting will be labor intensive,” Rochester said.
Additionally, extreme weather conditions can degrade the glue that binds to the tiles, ultimately causing them to fall, which is another challenge. Rochester explained how in order for the adhesive to be flexible in cold weather, it must be mixed with an acrylic medium. If the medium fails to mix proportionally, the tiles fall off. Therefore, minor repairs are still needed before the project is complete.
Despite these setbacks, the mosaic still stands as a monument commemorating the nine lives lost in the tragedy that struck this community in 2015. Some of the tiles on display were laid down by the families of these victims, who came to honor and remember the lives of their loved ones.
“It stands as a reminder that we were really fortunate that these nine souls were with us and touched our lives,” Rochester said.
She hopes that with enough volunteers, and warm weather temperatures, the mosaic will be completed within a year.
“It’s a monument to the idea of community” —Susan Rochester, Head of Fine Arts Department