FITCHBURG — Amber Haney wanted to make her community art piece count.
It took six months from start to finish. But on Tuesday, Dec. 6, her effort to bring together over 200 artists, and 200 total painted wooden tiles became a reality. A mosaic representing community was unveiled at Making Opportunity Count’s program hub at 49 Nursery Lane. Visitors can see the mosaic on a long second floor hallway wall, leading to MOC’s Family Resource Center and the Counseling Center.
“We have quite a few different flags which represent different sexual orientations and gender orientations,” Haney said. “I think we had up to four languages [with different quotes] including English. There’s quite a few that speak to participating in community, so one of them for example says ‘be the community you want to have.'”
Other tiles include the Fitchburg Public Schools logo, one discusses food as community and culture, while others include American Sign Language symbols for unity and love.
In a statement which first announced the mosaic’s unveiling, Haney said the project “intentionally centered art as a tool for expression, unification, and perspective-taking.”
“Throughout the project, the MOC community directly experienced the therapeutic benefits of creating art in community. The project was timely and necessary, as we all continue to face the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and other societal and environmental stressors that influence our experience of community,” Haney said.
To make the mosaic a reality, Haney was awarded funding through NewVue Communities’ Steward Activation Fund. The fund is designed to support projects that promote volunteerism and service to others. As a psychotherapist at MOC and a local artist, she was new to the stewardship programs offered through NewVue.
The mosaic is also an extension of Haney’s education. While completing her Master’s in Counseling at Lesley University, Haney became interested in art therapy. She likes the idea of art in public spaces as a means for healing and said that’s where her art style tends to go.
“I do my own private art,” Haney said. “I’ve sold art before but I think what I will continue to do in my career is doing art with community members, things like public art, but community engaged public art. So it’s not just for folks who identify as artists, but people who want to come out and be connected or celebrate or just have a place in the community to collaborate and that kind of stuff.”
Haney said NewVue agreed to fund the project around July 2022 and from there, focus shifted to design and creation. A Mosaic Committee was formed, which included members of MOC’s Race Equity Committee and Employee Engagement Committee, with the goal of making sure all of MOC’s programs had an opportunity to participate.
“I was looking to make sure that there was an equity component to things and one of the things just innately the project does is connect everybody from organizations within MOC,” Haney said, adding that she also wanted to bridge clients served and people who are service providers.
While Haney took the lead on creating the project, she said it was a community effort to make it happen. Over 200 people worked to create the 200 tiles, with some working collaboratively. Logistically, it was also a team effort, trying to get numerous people involved.
“There were a few classes, almost like workshops that I held where I invited people to come in and I brought materials,” Haney said. “Other folks shared a word about what was going on. They came to the event to celebrate, so there’s all different layers to how people did get involved.”
With the mosaic now a permanent fixture at MOC’s Nursery Lane site, NewVue Communities also echoed the project’s importance in a statement.
“All of us at NewVue are very proud of having supported this project of love and hope,” said Francisco Ramos, director of Community Organizing at NewVue Communities. “The project promoted healing as a community through art, and it ended up becoming one of the most beautiful projects that the Stewards Activation Fund has funded since its inception. North Central Massachusetts is very fortunate to have Ms. Haney practicing her personal and professional ‘magic’ among us.”
While this project may be complete, Haney said she continues to stay involved in the local art community. Over the summer she was part of the GoodSpace Murals project, which brought larger than life art to Fitchburg’s Boulder Drive. She also hopes others will get active in the local arts community, whether it be through the stewardship programs NewVue offers or through seeking out grants.
While some artist scenes can be intimidating or feel exclusive, Haney said she doesn’t feel that’s the case around the city.
“There’s just a lot of open and welcoming people in general,” Haney continued, adding there are many great community resources like the Main Street Studios. “Sometimes people don’t know [opportunities are there] and they’re hesitant to get involved because they don’t feel like part of the community, but that’s what they’re there for.”