Mosaic Artist Jes McMillan
In this episode, host Rodney Veal talks with Jes McMillan, an artist and owner of The Mosaic Institute of Dayton whose passion for the art of mosaics has developed into a career spanning over two decades.
[00:00:29] Rodney Veal: I’m super excited today cuz we’re gonna be talking to the one and only Jess McMillan, who does such incredible things in our community with mosaics, but also connecting people through art making, which is a unique way of doing it. And I just think the world of her and I say, Hey Jess, welcome to this conversation.
[00:00:51] How are you?
[00:00:53] Jes McMillan: Thank you. Thank you. I’m happy to be here. I’m doing well.
[00:00:58] Rodney Veal: Oh, awesome. Super cool. So, [00:01:00] you know, I was going through, and this is at that moment, I told you, you know, in our pre-interview chat people I said, well, I’m not, we’re gonna do a little bit of deep diving, but I was looking through your bio and I was, what I loved, and I, you know, I kind of went on your website, is that you started off at.
[00:01:17] With an associate’s degree, and it’s so rare for me to talk to someone in the arts who started off with an associates and then went to the next level because I don’t know if you know this, Jess, but I work at Sinclair Community College and I do this for a living, helping students complete and graduate and move forward in their careers.
[00:01:33] So I’ve kind of curious what, how did you get to that place of being at a community college and then to the next phase of going to point?
[00:01:45] Jes McMillan: Well, that is a good question. I, when I arrived in Pittsburgh and started school there in let’s say, I think 2001, I also got a job at the Greater [00:02:00] Pittsburgh Y M C A.
[00:02:02] and I, I started working at the downtown branch in an afterschool program and kept that job through my first two years in college. And after I got my associates in industrial design from the Art Institute, I wanted to kind of climb the ladder. At the Y M C A in my position in childcare, and that required child development college credits and Point Park University had a sister agreement of some kind with Art Institute, so my degree transferred in as a two year degree, and so I went to Point Park for another two years.
[00:02:46] To get the Bachelor, but mostly focused on minor degrees in art history and child development. And that was a, a great new, totally different experience than the Art [00:03:00] Institute that is totally constructed around artists. But in the end, I got the credits that I needed and, and moved my way up through the Y M C A pretty extensively before I came back home to Dayton.
[00:03:14] Rodney Veal: So you are a native Tian, so this is so, which is really super cool that you came back, I mean, you, because you had an option at that point to pretty much go anywhere you wanted. I mean, what was the, was there any just deciding factor to come back to Dayton, Ohio or just it’s home?
[00:03:30] Jes McMillan: Well, I did. I did, yes.
[00:03:32] It’s home. I, I love it. I grew up here. But I did come back after college to get guardianship of my younger sister. Right before I started college two days before my high school graduation, we lost our mother to an overdose. And so I kind of started life after that and then came back home to, to get guardianship of her and, and get an [00:04:00] apartment for us.
[00:04:02] Rodney Veal: Wow. Wow. That’s, that’s a, that’s a lot of. So a lot to process and a lot of things that are going on there. And, and it’s like, that’s, that’s why I would love having these conversations with people cuz it’s just people don’t know the, the, all the different parts that kind of go into becoming someone who’s creative and it’s not always, , oh, I’m going to school to do this.
[00:04:23] It’s their factors, you know, this is life. There are things that happen in life that are, that are bigger than art making, but yet they inform art making. And, and part of it is like the fact that you industrial design, it.
[00:04:35] I have students who don’t even say that and they’re in the design program. Do you know what I’m saying? So what Drew? Mm-hmm. , an industrial design of all things. That’s very specific.
[00:04:45] Jes McMillan: Well, you know, it, it’s, it fits perfect. For me. I am more of a technical thinker. I’m not really a fine artist per se. I have taken classes and.
[00:04:59] You know, painting [00:05:00] classes and training to get better at that part of my art. But really when it comes down to it, I am a builder and think more in terms of problem solving with materials and processes. So I call industrial design, basically Shop College, so ,
[00:05:20] Rodney Veal: shop College every, wow. Yeah. Ok.
[00:05:22] Jes McMillan: Shop College. I learned how to basically create.
[00:05:28] Anything my creative mind wanted to come up with. And that has really propelled, you know, I learned mosaic art when I was 16. It has been the love of my life since, and any, all my education, I guess, has really. Come to support that passion and, and what I do with that in my career. And so industrial design helps me figure out how to install these public porcelain pieces in the sidewalk and develop the team [00:06:00] that is in house that does those things for us and, and, and all of that.
[00:06:04] So, so yeah, it’s those, it’s the process and the materials and the tools and. You know, one of my dad’s favorite quotes to say is that you can build anything if you have the right tools.
[00:06:18] Rodney Veal: Oh, you’re, oh, that’s a pretty cool, that’s, that’s actually absolutely right. And you know, you know, I don’t know if you know this, but we all, and dance, we talk about movement processes.
[00:06:29] You have to have tools in your tool belt to pull from in order to create. . Mm-hmm. . So it’s just kind of interesting, like we always talk about that. It is really more the process than anything on the creativity, but your creativity manifests itself. So I think you, you kind of sell yourself short on the, on the mosaics being that this process is not that art, fine art, it is a fine art because, I mean, mosaics are not easy materials to work with in order to plan and use.
[00:06:57] It’s not easy material. I mean, [00:07:00] Talk about that. I mean, I mean the fact that it’s like, you know who, who at 16, what drew you to mosaics? Most people are like, oh, let me paint or do pencil drawings. But you’re like, let me get in there and crunch some porcelain in some glass bits.
[00:07:13] I mean, that’s, it’s kinda hardcore .
[00:07:17] Jes McMillan: The process is, you know, I, I feel like it’s a technical, it’s very easy to teach the process. You know, stepping up bits of a material and assembling them together, you know, is technically a mosaic. I think really, I started with stained glass and that is one of the most beautiful materials on the planet, and I.
[00:07:40] Still absolutely love it. And you know, I, that’s the most exciting part for me is to get a really beautiful, brand new sheet of glass that I get to break up and, and, and use to create something else beautiful with it. So I feel very lucky, you know, artists with master’s degrees make that [00:08:00] glass. So I think the material.
[00:08:03] just hooked me. And then the process, and you know, may I, I must love puzzles, , you know, putting all those pieces there, .
[00:08:11] Rodney Veal: Yeah. I, I mean, because you’re, you’re, you’re taking the little bits and pieces and, but they assemble to create, you know, an image and or shapes and forms that are recognizable to people. I mean, that’s, yeah, like I used to describe it as puzzles.
[00:08:26] Like, you must love puzzles. Do you like puzzles?
[00:08:28] Jes McMillan: I do love puzzles. I do more mosaic than puzzling ,
[00:08:33] Rodney Veal: You’ll like them. I love it. I love it.
[00:08:35] You know, you’re dealing with, you know, taking guardianship of your sister and, and coming back and, you know, for lack of a better term, being that adult, but you also still pursued trying to figure out how to keep that creative process going for yourself. So you get back to Dayton and did you jump right back into Mosaic making what came first in regards to that?
[00:08:59] Jes McMillan: [00:09:00] When I graduated with my bachelor’s, I had become very close to a lot of people in the art institute actually when I started school because of Mosaic and my skill with that and it being such a unique art form and also very engaging. , the Art Institute hired me very young, very quickly in school to represent them at festivals and, you know, try to pull people into the tent and show them mosaic and here’s a piece of art that I’m doing live.
[00:09:34] And that worked its way into teaching, you know, Community workshops and faculty development workshops at the Art Institute. So I had made some close important professional relationships there. And when I graduated from Point Park, they called me and commissioned my first large scale mosaic for one of their dorms.
[00:09:58] And that piece was [00:10:00] called creatively Influence. and that one was four foot tall by 17 foot long.
[00:10:08] Rodney Veal: And so Wow. That’s massive. That’s a massive scale.
[00:10:10] Jes McMillan: Yeah, it was, it was a big deal to me back then. Now it’s, it’s small , but
[00:10:18] Rodney Veal: I love it. I love it. You described it. I was like, that’s small. I’m like, okay. Well
[00:10:22] Jes McMillan: now, now but I was very excited about the opportunity and my art teacher from high school who taught me Mosaic helped with that piece.
[00:10:31] And right after finishing that piece and talking about it, I met Jerry Stan of the K-12 Gallery. Okay. And yes, this is where just being a mosaic artist and somebody who is in love with the art form and loves, you know, creating mosaics. I learned how to lead mosaic and accomplish so much more, you know, as far as the visual [00:11:00] art in, in such a shorter amount of time.
[00:11:02] And so right away I love the idea of, you know, enhancing the process and getting all these hands in to accomplish a lot of work. But I also experienced just the connection. In the community and the way that it brought people together at the table and the conversations that were happening at the table.
[00:11:22] And it really impacted my life as a young artist. And I decided that, you know, me leading instead of doing was, was more maybe my, my call in life. I mean, I make my own mosaics as much as I can, but really my passion and my career has been built around that.
[00:11:45] Rodney Veal: I love that. I love the fact that you talked about hearing those conversations and that connectivity and dialogue.
[00:11:50] I mean, so because you, you, you talked about it on your website. I mean, you talked about it’s, it’s the increased. You [00:12:00] know, it is a powerful catalyst to increase our levels of higher consciousness, improving our wellbeing, and activate the positive changes we yearn for.
[00:12:08] It’s like when people talk about meeting up with people to have to break bread. In many ways you’re breaking porcelain. I mean, is is there something, is there something about that tactical experience that allows people to open up and it just, you could, can you sense and feel the energy in the room change when people get their hands in?
[00:12:28] To the Pela.
[00:12:29] Jes McMillan: Yes, it’s really been an amazing journey, to be honest with you. So many amazing moments at the table in many different places in the city and in, you know, different communities. And, you know, over the years the Mosaic Institute will be eight this year. And you know, before that eight years with the K-12 gallery, so, you know, for 16 years now leading collaborative art in Dayton, it has been an incredible, [00:13:00] you know, ride for me to witness just.
[00:13:04] Exactly that, that the process is like breaking bread first. You know, proximity is what’s important. You gotta bring people together and then creation, it opens up a part of our heart. You know, I talk about the consciousness in that quote. It is. Hopeful, it’s youthful. There’s joy in there. We’re getting down into something inside of us, and we are proud because Mosaic is an easier process.
[00:13:35] We can learn something quickly, we can be good at something that we didn’t know that we were good at. And so the discovery of that and just the feelings that come with that open opens the person and that is when. , you know, when they speak and when they tell their story and when they start to communicate.
[00:13:55] That is how we can find the path towards empathy and breaking [00:14:00] down some of those barriers of division. You know, that’s how the Republican and the Democrat can sit at the table together and realize they’ve both have lost a, a loved one. and they both have broken hearts, and that is the first step to come to some kind of agreement, to disagree.
[00:14:18] And so the barriers that I have seen break down in this process and, and just the experience and, and uplifting and healing that people have, have, you know, gone through has just been wow. It’s just. awesome. .
[00:14:35] Rodney Veal: I mean that there, that is so powerful. I mean, the fact that you talked about this as breaking down of bears and you, that, that everybody has a heart.
[00:14:42] We all have hearts. We have, we all have emotions, we have feelings. And I remember, cause when I first met you, they met you when you were doing the working with the community to do the SICs for the arcade. And I remember that experience, just that short amount of time I was there. [00:15:00] People, little children and families, people were laughing and smiling.
[00:15:06] It was like the I mean, I was like, okay, we, well, we were outdoors. Like I, at first, I attributed to that, but I, I thought, no, no, I, upon reflection, it was like, it was this process and I, I could see that when you were doing it, like you were there. that that fed you in in many ways. And so I was like, oh, I got to witness that.
[00:15:27] So I was like, oh yeah. Oh yeah. So that’s why I was like thinking, oh my God, we gotta talk to Jess about this because how powerful that is. I mean, I was, because I was still also thinking about too, from your, from history almost. I, and, and I could be wrong, you tell me you studied art history as well. Mosaics are pretty much a part of almost every
[00:15:46] Jes McMillan: culture.
[00:15:49] My goodness. History is very, very long for that art. It, it, it has been around for a very long time. Yes. ,
[00:15:59] Rodney Veal: [00:16:00] every corner of the globe has this sort of, that process and I’m like, oh, that, I’m thinking that universality of that, of that. And so, I mean, as. I’m not sure because I, I haven’t walked the perimeter of the arcade, but are the, are, are the mosaics in place already at the
[00:16:17] Jes McMillan: arcade?
[00:16:19] I have. We, during Art in the City was was that event, which was amazing. We interacted with over a thousand Dayton in one evening and we completed. I think it was nine. Nine foot by 12 foot gem, and that is here in the Mosaic Institute. The last entrance is under construction into the arcade, which is. On the courthouse square side, that is where the gem will be installed.
[00:16:53] Yeah. So I don’t want any heavy, you know, machinery rolling over that mosaic. So we are [00:17:00] waiting for the, I can’t blame you, .
[00:17:02] Rodney Veal: I don’t blame you because, and so you said it’s like how big its, so the audience understands. Say the size again. How
[00:17:10] Jes McMillan: big is that? It’s nine foot tall. and 12 foot wide, a gem gem shape.
[00:17:18] Rodney Veal: Wow. That’s a massive, that’s a massive size. That’s massive. Okay. Now I can see in comparison to the last piece you talked about, did that, okay, I see where you’re going with that one. I see where you’re going with this one. So yeah, hopefully that will be done soon. And so what I love about that is that everybody in the community will be able to interact and engage with.
[00:17:39] and see it. Yes. And that’s why I wanted to talk to you about that because I think people, to understand that there was, that people put their hearts into it. I mean, their hands, that so thousands of hands touch that to make that happen in our community. I think that’s just, that’s the power of what you do is pretty cool.
[00:17:57] So, eh, just throwing that out [00:18:00] there for people.
[00:18:02] Jes McMillan: A lot of energy in that piece. Yes. It’s, and, and all of our pieces really, you know, we are putting these pieces in the sidewalk all over Dayton and Oh yeah. You, John. So it, it’s, it’s really cool that, you know, the community is building that legacy. with their own hands,
[00:18:24] Rodney Veal: Oh, and you’re helping to guide it. Okay, so when we come back we’re gonna take a little bit of a break and when we come back, we’re gonna talk to more to Jess McMillan, wanna talk about all the things she’s doing with mosaics, but get her thoughts and takes on the community and what her next goals and plans are.
[00:18:40] So that’s what’s coming.
[00:19:25] Rodney Veal: All right. So Jess, okay. You’ve, you talked so, so passionately and so with so much, it’s like connectiveness to this mosaic process. And your organization the Mosaic Institute has been around since. How long has it been around? I mean, you, you, for a while it looks it was like 2015.
[00:19:49] Jes McMillan: Yes, that’s it.
[00:19:50] April, 2015 we founded and then we opened the doors in September in Miamisburg of that year
[00:19:58] Rodney Veal: in Miamisburg. [00:20:00] Wow. Is that where you’re from? Is Miamisburg where you’re from or was it just
[00:20:03] Jes McMillan: No. Yeah, it was circumstantial, I guess, kind of how we ended up there. .
[00:20:09] Rodney Veal: Yeah. Well, yeah, I mean our, our community, I mean, it’s, we call ourselves Dayton, but we have, you know, different pockets of it that are, you know, identify as places but Miamisburg, I mean, which I find actually find kind of fascinating.
[00:20:22] I mean, what the, not going into the details of the circumstances, but it, Miamisburg is this really cool little hidden spot of, its. In many ways. And so you, you do the, you build this institute up to do mosaics and I mean, folks, there is, there are mosaics everywhere. You have a lot, a lot of work in the community.
[00:20:46] I was like looking at it, going totally crazy. I mean the fact that you have, the one that really amazes me is that, is the Dayton shooting memorial that you did for City Hall nine Doves. I mean, that. [00:21:00] I’ve seen it. It’s really powerful. Was that a community-based, was that a community-based piece or was that just you?
[00:21:10] Jes McMillan: That was that was such an incredible project. We were called, you know, the morning after the shooting by the contemporary, having just, Completed, you know, the, the Unity Gym at Courthouse Square during Art in the city. Yeah. And you know, we’re asked, what can we do? There’s planning in the works for Memorial.
[00:21:37] How can we have healing arts? How can we engage? What does that look like? What can we do? So we started. You know, thinking, what does a design look like? What kind of collaborative mosaic can we do? And maybe a day later I had a, a design submitted to the contemporary [00:22:00] and we were given the green light to go ahead and go forward with creating the nine dove.
[00:22:06] Which are, you know, kind of signify the doves that were released at the memorial in our hands, you know, kind of reaching up towards them. So in order to accomplish that, which w was worked on during the Gym City Shine event participants wrote messages to the victims and the families and to Dayton and placed them in the mosaic during that event.
[00:22:30] Myself and Vincent Dietrich and Noah Fowler, two other mosaics in Dayton went into the studio and we worked many hours to finish all of the nine doves and the hands. In order to have, and I think the beams of light, even we were finished with those components because we wanted the community to be able to have an emotional connection to those components.
[00:22:59] And the [00:23:00] piece as they wrote, you know, the messages that then filled up the background behind these details. So we got it finished and we had it out and people wrote messages and. Then we took it to the McMillan Gallery, which was on Brown Street then, and put it in the gallery. And many days after that the victim’s, families, men, several of them actually came into the gallery and sat with the piece for a time completing, you know, kind of little areas and sections of their own message.
[00:23:35] And I thought this piece might be installed in the sidewalk eventually, which would mean that the messages would eventually erode away. Which is still a beautiful, you know, sentiment. But. Mayor Nan Whaley at the time, she gave us an amazing spot in in City Hall. She even took, moved to TV and painted the wall for me.[00:24:00]
[00:24:00] I was very particular.
[00:24:07] Rodney Veal: Yeah. Yes.
[00:24:07] Jes McMillan: I love it. You can see it, and you’re right. You feel it when you read those messages. It has kind of become a time capsule of everything that we were experiencing and feeling during that time,
[00:24:21] Rodney Veal: and, and what I loved about that, cuz I, I, because I’ve been, I’ve been, I, I talked to a lot of people about art and art making and I firmly, we, and everybody I’ve talked to, I firmly believe people that art can change.
[00:24:36] People and societies and change course can help Course correct. And I think that, that it’s not a political message, it’s a human message. And so I, I believe in that wholeheartedly. And I think you kind of embody that with not only you, you taking the lead and bringing people together. You, you have a tendency to, and, and we’ve talked [00:25:00] about this.
[00:25:00] Well, you like bringing people together, don’t you? This is. . That’s like your, your like your superpower . And so I mean every many ways it really is just, you know, I mean and that’s really, I find that very fascinating cuz a lot of people don’t think of artists as leaders. . And so here you are doing what you do in an art form that maybe a lot of people don’t understand has that power and connectivity.
[00:25:29] And I love that you’re explaining in the, you explained it in the, in the podcast, tactile, getting your hands in. It opens up hearts, it brings down divisions. I’m hoping that people can look at mosaics in a different way. I don’t think, cuz a lot of people think, I think. Wrong. I’m gonna say this in a, in a word, in a phrase that might scare people in the audience.
[00:25:50] Decorative. It’s not . I don’t believe in that. I, I, I, ugh. Just makes me cringe. I’m like, no, there’s history, there’s context, there’s a beauty and art to [00:26:00] it. And you, you manifest that. So, so is, was it your intention all along to make sure that your work had a message or the, or the collaborations work on a message versus just purely decorative?
[00:26:14] Was it intentional?
[00:26:16] Jes McMillan: Yes. It’s very intentional. I’m, they are beautiful pieces of art and we. You know, pride ourselves on striving for artistic excellence with all of the mosaics that we are doing. You know, as much as we can, we bring in local designers. My team is all Dayton, local people that, you know, mosaics that I have trained, and we really.
[00:26:45] you know, we, we create this beautiful product, but really the mission and the nonprofit and the reason is all about the people and bringing the people together. That is really the focus. And, you [00:27:00] know, as I work into this career and, and we, we put these mosaics in the ground, it is, even more so, the focus as time goes on, that the conversation that we cultivate at the table is everything.
[00:27:18] You know, mosaic is the physical representation of community coming together to make one big, beautiful picture, right? It’s the easy, it’s the easy way to see it on the elementary school level. We get to say, look at this beautiful piece that you made. All of the different shapes, sizes, and colors of pieces are all 100% necessary to create this final beautiful picture that we’re making.
[00:27:49] Just like you. You know, it’s our uniqueness that makes us so wonderful in the. What we have to give all these, all these [00:28:00] different pieces of the mosaic. And, and the message is beautiful. It’s different for different community groups, different, you know, with adults. There’s just a lot of barriers of division.
[00:28:09] There’s adults in recovery. There’s, you know, we, we, we change that conversation for the healing that is necessary, I guess for the, for the community that’s, that’s there. .
[00:28:20] Rodney Veal: That’s why I’ve I’m, I’m drawn to the work you’re doing is for that reason.
[00:28:26] You know, it’s, and, and out. So I’m curious if, is there with, because you, you, would you ever consider so. Maybe creating work with, cuz you said something about stained glass and I remember the, the, I’m trying to formulate the question for it and excuse me for the night. Cool haze, but it just what, I mean, would you ever go back to making stained glass?
[00:28:55] I’m just outta curiosity his friend.
[00:28:57] Jes McMillan: Yes I do. The [00:29:00] mosaics that we do inside the elementary schools, usually anything that we do that hangs indoors is made out of glass. Okay. And everything installed outside is made out of the porcelain just because it is. Yes. We need that for just the freeze andal and the weather here.
[00:29:20] It is a full color bodied tile, so as it erodes and layers over time, it’s, it’s the same color through and through. It’s not coded. It’s really the right material to use for. Mosaics. So we do use a lot of glass. And then of course in my art doing a beauty of brokenness series my personal art right now.
[00:29:40] Okay. And that is all glass as well. ,
[00:29:43] Rodney Veal: that’s all glass as well. Can you talk about that? I mean, it’s just like, is it, talk about that series. What, what? I mean, I, I mean I know you from the big public work. Yeah. But the intimate work. I’m, I’m getting getting to know you Jess. I’m getting to know you. So what, what, talk about that.[00:30:00]
[00:30:00] Jes McMillan: Well, this particular series is It’s really about taking that beautiful material that I mentioned a full sheet of stained glass that is created by an artist and, and attaching that to the substrate as a whole piece. Sometimes I came under it sometimes not. It just depends. But I will attach that entire sheet down to the substrate and then I will take, I don’t know, crowbar a hammer.
[00:30:32] and break the piece, break elements of the glass, and then repair it with a more detailed mosaic work .
[00:30:42] Rodney Veal: Wow. I mean, you are like, you’re going in. I mean, I love that. I mean, so are you planning to do a lot more personal series? Are you planning to do. all in. I mean, I mean, cuz you know, some artists love to work in a large scale and they never go [00:31:00] to the intimate projects of their own.
[00:31:01] So I’m just kinda curious, are you planning to do even more?
[00:31:06] Jes McMillan: Yes. I, I always try to do this my own work. It’s important for me to try to work that into my schedule. It is my personal connection to source. And so, you know, it’s my meditation, , it’s my mental health. It’s, it’s all of those things us artists need to create in our ways and, and connect like that how we do.
[00:31:31] So I, I definitely plan on. Pushing that in my career as I move forward, kind of more to the forefront, I would like to be able to leverage, you know, the value behind what I have been able to do in the public to kind of stand behind. My art as a, as an artist, I don’t have the long list of all these places I’ve shown and this, you know, all these [00:32:00] works.
[00:32:00] And so I haven’t really put the time in as far as that, but I’ve certainly put the time in in other ways and so, , you know, I, I kind of like to put that behind me and, and produce some more of these pieces. I’m really excited about the process because it’s something that nobody’s really doing in the mosaic world.
[00:32:20] So it’s, it’s new and exciting and I’m having a lot of fun and, you know, discovering new things about an art that I love working through it.
[00:32:31] Rodney Veal: I love it. So speaking of the, this art form that you love working through, is there. Someone else’s work of art in this genre that inspires you? Like you see it, like you think about it, or you, you, you’ve seen it and you’ve gone, oh, that’s the one.
[00:32:48] I mean, I, I mean, I have it for ballet, so, and that would be concerto barocco. But for mosaics, what would be the concerto? Barocco?
[00:32:57] Jes McMillan: Yeah. That’s a great question. I, I, [00:33:00] that would have to be Isaiah Zag. He is one of the top mosaics in the United States out of Philadelphia. I actually I turned 40 this year and went to Philly and bought one of his mosaics,
[00:33:17] Rodney Veal: Oh, wow. You, I mean, that’s a sign of love when an artist buys another. Artist work. You know? You do know. Yes, it is. It is . That’s, you know, it’s like, it’s like I have Amy Diehl in our house, so I’m like, I have works of Amy Diehl. I’m like, yeah, . It’s like, yeah. Oh yeah. Yes,
[00:33:34] Jes McMillan: yes. Isaiah is known for over time covering an entire neighborhood in Philly on the exteriors of the buildings, and then one main entire building.
[00:33:47] Mosaic, he uses all kinds of discarded materials, and through his career in doing this, he’s done it enough to where people visit Philly and [00:34:00] there’s a nonprofit dedicated to preserving his mosaics. Just to kind of experience this and see, it’s called the Magic Garden. I definitely recommend everyone who is in that area, definitely check it out.
[00:34:13] It is a beautiful artistic site to be experienced. But I love, you know, I don’t really use discarded. You could say a mosaic is made of discarded pieces. We buy new glass and porcelain and break. But Isaiah Zagar, he, us really, he literally uses, you know, the trash that we would throw away, which is another beautiful representation of community in a different way.
[00:34:41] You know, the, the beauty and just, You know, the resurrecting that which could be so easily discarded, you know, in people and in art form. And so I really admire what he’s done through his career. [00:35:00] And I didn’t get to meet him, so I was a little disappointed. He’s around there, but he’s, he’s much older and.
[00:35:07] You know, he wasn’t but it was still incredible to experience his art and I’m very excited to have one of his pieces.
[00:35:15] Rodney Veal: I love it. That just sounds like such an epic sort of monumental, conceptual work. I mean, was he, is he considered to be an outsider artist, or is he considered to be more conceptual artist?
[00:35:30] I mean, do you know what I’m saying? Like, , you know, some people was he trained to be a, a mosaics?
[00:35:38] Jes McMillan: No, no training. I I think maybe most mosaics around here are self-taught or usually by the coast you, there’s more of an awareness, so kind of closer to the ocean. There’s more, more mosaics, there’s more,
[00:35:56] Rodney Veal: mm-hmm.
[00:35:56] Okay. Okay. So it. That’s really [00:36:00] interesting to kind of think of it as like, like more of a coastal sort of arts phenomenon. But you’ve, you’re, you’re here in what we are could basically say the heart of the country, Ohio, heart of it all, I mean mm-hmm. , I mean, that’s, it’s kind of, I mean, and so what’s the pub?
[00:36:17] What’s the public response to. The mosaics and being engaged with the process and then seeing them installed and people interacting and engaging with ’em. What’s, I mean, what’s the, what’s the, what’s the buzz on the street about this?
[00:36:31] Jes McMillan: Well, everyone that has interacted with us and been a part of one of our projects or even taken a class, you know, we’re doing these succulent popups and, and places around Dayton.
[00:36:44] Anybody who has had the mosaic experience with us. Has had a great experience, I would say is, is a, a fan for life. I think that The light bulb, yes. Yeah, the light [00:37:00] bulb is just coming on, I think for Dayton as far as these sidewalk pieces, these big porcelain public art pieces because that, Is a really important part of Dayton’s future.
[00:37:12] You know, in my, in my mind and my heart, what I believe what and what I’m trying to do is that I, I believe that people will also visit Dayton. one day to play these games. They’re interactive. You know, let’s say I, I spend, you know, the next 30 years putting games in the ground, we’ll say 20. I wanna retire and do some fun stuff but I, I, let’s say I fill the city with these games and then. I, I think that people will come to play them and it will be a, a unique factor in a unique city. And you know, I, I said before, the best part is that this community is building that legacy for themselves with their hands. You know, I, I’m a part of it, I’m leading [00:38:00] it, but in the end, you know, I, I think they’ll see.
[00:38:04] You know, all the pieces come together of, of what we’re trying to build. And, and so right now we’re just starting to gain some momentum. I think, you know, more people are starting to call us than me saying, Hey, you want a mosaic .
[00:38:20] Rodney Veal: Right? Right. Exactly. It’s like, it’s, it’s, it’s more driven by the community saying, we’re kind of jumping in on this.
[00:38:26] I mean mm-hmm. . And so I, I, I feel, I, I, I love the fact that you’re talking. That you see Dayton growing and expanding because we had the same similar conversation with Ron Rollins. You know, do you know Ron Rollins?
[00:38:39] Jes McMillan: I do. I do. Yeah.
[00:38:41] Rodney Veal: It was a really interesting conversation about the city and the community and where it’s at and where it’s going.
[00:38:47] I, I think we’re all feeling like, yeah. , okay. This is the right time to ju jump into what your personal practice is, is the right time to kind of engage the community. It’s [00:39:00] just ripe. It’s absolutely ripe. And that’s why I wanted to have this conversation with you because you’re, you’re, you, you’re, I kind of thought that, I mean, I’ve talked to you, we’ve talked before, Jess.
[00:39:10] I mean, full disclosure folks. I do talk to other people other than my cat. And, and, and I just think it’s kind of, It’s very fascinating to me. Like all the conversations are about is this ripe for potential and let’s do this. I love this idea of games embedded in the streets on the sidewalks that people can interact and engage with.
[00:39:32] I mean, I mean, is that it’s not scaring people off, is it? I mean, I’m hoping it’s not , I mean games come on just. So I, I’m just, am super, super excited about it. So, chess, before we kind of step off from this conversation, what do you like, what do you want to demystify or demystify or, let’s put it this way, a 32nd elevator [00:40:00] speech about mosaics.
[00:40:01] That, that, that, to convince people they need to give it a try. Come try at a workshop. Come engage as a community member with mosaics.
[00:40:12] Jes McMillan: Okay. Well, I would love for every one of you to join us either making a public art mosaic when we pop up or taking one of our classes. I know. that you will have a great experience. You will learn something new, possibly about yourself, but definitely that you have skills that you didn’t know and you’re gonna connect to people.
[00:40:38] Also, maybe some, you know, in a deeper way, maybe some that you don’t know, and you’ll make a new friend, but there is no reason. Not to come and join us either. Have a great experience for yourself or take part in something so much bigger than you. It’s just gonna make your heart [00:41:00] explode. Ah,
[00:41:01] Rodney Veal: I love it. Yes, it will.
[00:41:04] And it, and it really will. I mean, I, I have to say it’s, you are dedicated to this, this proposition wholeheartedly, folks, and I just think that Jess is just, just very inspiring. So, Jess, I’m so glad we had a chance to have this conversation. I can’t wait to share this with the, so you just, you’re just amazing.
[00:41:27] You’re look Atlas for changing our community and I’m really glad you’re, you’re glad you’re here.
[00:41:32] Jes McMillan: Well, I love you all. I love Dayton and thank you so much.