The Welcoming Committee - CODAworx

The Welcoming Committee

Client: City of Fort Worth

Location: Fort Worth, TX, United States

Completion date: 2023

Artwork budget: $375,000

Project Team

Lead artist/mosaicist

Julie Richey

Julie Richey Mosaics, LLC

Muralist, Cats and Dogs Aloft

John Wehrle

Trout in Hand, LLC

Welding, installations

Albert T. Scherbarth

Albert T. Scherbarth

Armatures /installation Mags and Terra

Kevin Collins and Chris Coakley

Blue Genie Art Industries, Inc.

Stainless steel frames, 8 dogs and cat

Michael Harrison

Baldwin Metals, Inc.

Photographer

Danny Fulgencio

DannyFulgencio.com

Public Art Project and Capital Budget Manager

Alida Labbe

Arts Fort Worth

Overview

Thirteen mosaic pets greet visitors at Fort Worth’s new animal shelter. Mosaicist Julie Richey created an art plan for the city’s large, multi-building campus. Mosaics adorn welcoming gabion towers, a “selfie bench” featuring a five-foot-tall blue glass mosaic pittie mix, a six-foot-tall calico, five mosaic and stainless steel dogs chasing along a retaining wall, while curious cats perch in unlikely places.

The project began in 2019 and was completed in April, 2023. Richey approached the commission as a collaboration – hiring painters, sculptors, welders and art fabricators to create the base structures for her mosaics. Using multiple techniques, Richey created a cohesive series of whimsical, colorfully-patterned mosaic animals to engage visitors and staff throughout the campus.

“The Welcoming Committee” features three rock-filled gabion towers where “Pepita,” “Luna” and “Chip,” the shelter mascot, mark the entrance. “The Chase” sports five double-sided mosaic dogs, chasing the leader’s red ball. “Magnolia” is a large, faceted dog atop a limestone bench, where families can take selfies with their new pet. “Terra” the calico contemplates the marsh wildlife on the portico. Three cats view the Adoption Center action from the rafters.

Goals

When the Fort Worth Arts Council awarded the commission, the campus was still in the early construction phase, and Richey was given a blank slate. The budget was comprised of the Percent for Art funds from several municipal buildings in the complex, because the other buildings didn’t have a public interface. This allowed for multiple works across the large campus - a necessity, given the sprawling nature of the shelter. Five kennels, an admin building, an Adoption Center with cat suites and a classroom - each of these offered unique and challenging opportunities for visitor engagement.

Richey chose five distinct sites, designing an installation for each. The goal was to spread the artworks around, drawing adopters, staff and volunteers into the campus to explore as they enter the clinic, kennels and adoption center.

The work had to endure harsh Texas weather, where temperatures can fluctuate radically within hours; tornadoes, hail, sleet, and 110+ degrees summers aren’t uncommon in North Texas, but the mosaic materials and construction methods will endure. Visitors of all ages, both human and animal, will be interacting with the work. It had to be low-maintenance and tactile, since almost all of it is at viewers’ level.

Process

Sequencing collaborations and production was key in this multi-part installation. The commission was awarded late in 2019, but the contract wasn’t approved by city council until February, 2020. We all know what happened next. Because Richey had other commissions in the works, the Pandemic offered an opportunity to ask collaborating artists to start their work from home studios. CA muralist John Wehrle was commissioned to paint the large mural “Cats and Dogs Aloft” while in quarantine. In May 2021, Wehrle installed the mural in the Adoption Center. Meanwhile, the eight stainless steel figures were in progress at Baldwin Metals. Summer 2022 saw Richey creating double-sided mosaics of seven dogs and one cat. She requested the first three frames to be the three entry gabion pieces, so the “welcome” installation could be completed next. Welder Albert Scherbarth assembled the three gabions and placed them outdoors to patina, installing them in May, 2022. Also in summer 2022, Blue Genie Enterprises fabricated “Magnolia,” the selfie dog base, delivering it in Sept. 2022 just after “The Chase” was installed. Richey worked with a fellow mosaicist to complete the “Magnolia” by December, 2022. Lastly, Richey completed “Terra,” installed by Blue Genie in April, 2023.