Healing Tree of Life mosaic mural unveiled at Frick Park

PITTBSURGH — Grief, sadness and trauma are being transformed into art meant to heal. Sunday, a new mosaic mural, including tiles, marble and exteriors from the Tree of Life Synagogue, was unveiled at Frick Environmental Center in Frick Park.

Susan Spangler and Ted Cmarada are grief counselors who set out on a mission to find what helps individuals and communities heal from grief. They’re also project directors for the mural.

“We brought our broken pieces together, we sat around a table and pieced those together to form a whole that we hope is a healing space for others,” Spangler tells Channel 11 News.

The mosaic is made up of cherished memories, pieces of nature and the feelings of deep, dark grief that families and survivors of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting are forced to carry with them.

“It has been a beautiful experience,” participant, Janice Henry tells Channel 11.

Laura Jean Mclaughlin was the artist on the project. She worked with participants to go forage in the woods and press pieces of nature into clay medallions. She says the mosaic is also made up of drawings, personal tokens and pieces of the Tree of Life Synagogue, including tiles, exteriors of the building and marble.

“It was really cathartic for some of the victims to be smashing those tiles,” Mclaughlin said.

Helen Stallings created the outline of a tear that’s also a raindrop.

“It’s been the best thing I’ve ever done for myself,” she tells Channel 11.

There’s also a phoenix rising from ashes and mirrors that reflect back the faces of those who created this art.

“Hearing one another, looking in each other’s eyes, and feeling like the healing taking place, even before we realized it, really,” Stallings added.

Not everyone had a direct connection to the synagogue shooting, but they all shared the human experience of grief.

“Sharing it, but not with words and not trying to fix each other - just being yourself, sharing the parts that come naturally and creating something beautiful,” Janice Henry added.

“It is only in the whole that those broken pieces become beauty again and come to life again,” Ted Cmarada said.

More than 30 people came together to help create the mosaic mural. Frick Environmental Center is free and open to the public.

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