A passionate and truly committed mosaic artist, Laurel True, could not be happier these days. After 15 years of teaching and doing commissioned mosaic and architectural work, she was able to create a school, open a supply store and have it all blessed by her maestro.

The Institute of Mosaic Art, 3001 Chapman St., held its grand opening ceremony Sept. 24 in Jingletown, also known as Oaklands art district. An angel, a mermaid and a band from Ghana were some of the main attractions. But they had to compete with a sumptuous mural made from broken glass, mirror and tile, and grouted with 1,500 pounds of colored cement.

Master Isaiah Zagar, the famous Philadelphia artist who mentored True, directed the creation of the large-scale mural, which was made in just a few days. It portrays a wide variety of little forms and brushed colors accentuated by a silver line made of broken mirror, and a few phrases such as A Free Lance Angel.

We want people to know that we are here, accessible to every one, loving and celebrating Oakland, True said.

Inside the purple building, a world of creativity and potential is unleashed.

A room full of broken glass and ceramic tile of all colors and different shapes suggests this is where things will be created from these little pieces. Here is where our workshops are held, True explained.

Students can learn the basics of mosaic making, exterior and garden applications, glass-fusing techniques, and glass-mosaic lamps, mirrors and tabletops through a series of classes, lectures and weekend workshops.


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True defines mosaic art as an assembly of pieces, bringing order when there is no order, and bringing chaos where there is no chaos.

Mosaic art was popular in the 1920s, 50s and 90s. Nowadays, True said, it appeals to people interested in creative expression. The mosaics level of sophistication makes it much more than a hobby.

And the art community is taking mosaic-making more seriously.

There is no college or community art school that has a mosaic art degree, but we are trying to change that, the artist said.

The Institute of Mosaic Art in Oakland is the only one of its type in Northern California. With the interior painted a light green, it is full of light and mosaics, made by several local and national artists who are exhibiting their work there.

The current exhibit features a giant crown, Japanese box, a large statue of a woman, a fish and many other objects.

A supply store is right there with the appropriate tools and materials. This is the only store in California with all you need to make any type of mosaic art, True said.

Making her dreams a reality has not been easy for this respected artist. Since I started, I had this vision of creating a safe, comfortable place to seriously explore the thousands possibilities of mosaic making, True said.

It all started when True was 20 and went to work as an apprentice to Zagar, who designed and created intricate and abstract pieces of mosaic in important buildings, streets and parks of Philadelphia.

I was impressed by Laurels amazing willingness to work very hard. I wanted her to develop the skills to touch people in a positive way, Zagar said.

Zagar emphasizes the mystical side of mosaic-making. It is something really special. You turn the detritus of the civilization into the gold of the civilization, like an alchemist.

True had a background in textile and a special interest in Ghana, Africa. She brought that to what would become the center of her life. In addition to teaching mosaic art, True has gotten more than a fair share of commissioned work for private entities and city governments. Her work, displayed as public art in several Bay Area cities, is well appreciated by the art community.

Although she has been busy teaching locally and abroad, putting together the funds for a school took time.

Being a self-supporting artist, I had to go slowly, step by step, to reach my goal, True said. Now we are working to become a nonprofit organization and get grants to teach this wonderful art to kids and youth.

Any one interested in learning more about the Institute of Mosaic Art can go to the Web site at http://www.instituteofmosaicart.com.

Life has returned to the Floral Depot Building with the grand opening tonight of Kevin Burns and Bob Frattis Uptown Nightclub at 1928 Telegraph Ave. Rocker Eddie Money christens the event along with The Passion Pirates and The Hoo, 9 p.m. $15. For more information: http://www.uptownnightclub.com.

Listings

- Friday — Ras Kdee, Seneca, DJ Gigs, Live Graffiti, spontaneous community hip-hop, open dance floor, you dont have to be on the program to perform, just holler at the DJ or the host (but you have to bring TRUTH in your lyrics), 4 to 6 p.m., Youth Uprising, 8711 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland. All ages. Free

- Friday — LoCal Music Expo with Ben Storm, acoustic rock n soul, 8:30 p.m., Epic Arts Studios, 1923 Ashby Ave. at MLK, Berkeley, $5 to $10, no one turned away for lack of funds. All ages.

- Friday — Rituals in the Journey of Life and Death, a Day of the Dead exhibition featuring several East Bay artists, opening reception, 6 to 10 p.m., SomArts Cultural Center, 934 Brannan St., between 8th and 9th streets, San Francisco. $10. Exhibit through Nov. 5, gallery hours Monday to Saturday noon to 6 p.m.

- Saturday — Sneak Peek of Playland Not-At-The Beach, a new mural by Dan Fontes with the help of Ed Cassel, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 10979 San Pablo at Jefferson in El Cerrito. Free.

- Saturday — Life Spices From Seasoned Sistahs book signing, 6 p.m., African American Museum Library at Oakland, 659 14th St., Oakland.

- Saturday — Francisco Aguabella y Su Grupo Ara Oko, Cubas legendary conguero, 8 and 10 p.m., La Pena, 3105 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, $20.

- Saturday — Hurricane Relief Benefit Concert, featuring the Yancy Taylor Group, Anna Deleon and Mal Sharpe, Upsurge, the Caroline Chung Group, Plays Monk and the Anton Schwartz Quartet, 2 to 8 p.m., The Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St., Berkeley, suggested donation $20 to $50 (larger donations greatly appreciated).

- Saturday — Robin Gregory & Bill The Jazz Professor Bell, 8 p.m., Annas Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way, Berkeley, $7 cover.

- Sunday — Kimono demonstration at the Taisho Chic exhibit, 3 p.m., the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, 2626 Bancroft Way, Berkeley. Free with museum admission, $8 general, $5 seniors and students. Exhibit through Dec. 23. Visit bampfa.berkeley.edu for gallery hours.

- Sunday — Wallace Roney, a rare appearance by the Grammy-winning trumpeter, 4:30 p.m., the Jazzschool, 2087 Addison St., Berkeley. $20.

- Sunday, Oct. 23 — Oakland Lyric Operas Poems De LExtase (Poems of Ecstasy), 2 p.m., followed by an artists reception and tea service, Chapel of the Chimes, 4499 Piedmont, Oakland, suggested donations $18/$20. Reservations are requested, call 836-6772.