BY KATHY SCHMUGGE
COLUMBIA — The empty space between the new St. Joseph Parish Life Center and St. Joseph School presented itself as an opportunity for Angel Allen, a mosaic/tile artist, to create a lasting image that would connect the new building with the old.
On April 22 the Holy Family Mosaic was blessed and dedicated by Father Tim Tebalt, parochial vicar for St. Joseph, after the morning Mass. Children, parents, and parishioners gathered around the artwork, celebrating the artist/parishioner, and the generous benefactors, the Khoury family.
Merg Ballou, parishioner and parent at St. Joseph School, has been working on events to commemorate its 50th anniversary. She liked the idea of commissioning artwork for this occasion.
“Merg called me about her idea,” Allen said. “I told her I had just the thing.”
For several years, Allen had noticed an empty space between the buildings and thought there needed to be something there. She felt the work should include the patron of the school, St. Joseph, but she didn’t want to leave out the rest of the family.
“The Holy Family is a wonderful model for us, and this school is about families,” Allen said. “I know so many parents who went to this school when they were young and now their children are attending here.”
The colorful mosaic is a freestanding piece measuring 30 inches by 64 inches. With the help of parishioner Jimmy Millard, the glass mosaic was welded into a heavy substructure designed by Allen.
The colors in the mosaic have significance. Mary, of course, was in blue. Allen picked red for St. Joseph’s clothing because she wanted a strong color for him. She chose an iridescent white for Jesus’s blanket, to show his divinity and humanity. The ascending blue and white band running across the mosaic not only gives it movement, but also guides the eye upward toward God. She chose green for the background as a symbol of new life.
“Although I wanted the Holy Family to look solid together and well grounded, I added the band to show movement, the kind of movement and change that all families go through as they grow,” she said.
Allen frequently creates customized ceramic tiles for kitchens and bathrooms. One of her larger projects includes a mosaic tabletop and a mosaic piece for Edventure, that incorporates the works of donors’ children within it.
This mosaic is her first religious work, but she enjoyed it so much that it will probably not be her last one. She’d like to create a mosaic incorporating the Stations of the Cross.
Dr. Leon Khoury Jr., a graduate and parent of children who attend St. Joseph, was approached by Ballou about the possibility of funding the Holy Family mosaic.
“It seemed like the right thing to do,” Khoury said. “Most of my siblings went to this school, and we wanted to dedicate the mosaic to our mother and father. It seemed like the right time to do something for the family.” He is one of the six adult Khoury children who contributed to the venture.
“It is an absolutely incredible mosaic,” Ballou said. “We are so blessed to have an artist of this caliber who was willing to create such a beautiful and lasting tribute to our school.”