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Mosaic project planned for wedding garden
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Heather Anderson and the first few feet of the mosaic planned to cover former pool areas at the Florida Botanical Gardens.
LARGO – At the Florida Botanical Gardens Wedding Garden, the fountains have dried up and the pools they splashed into are empty and boarded over. Not a very attractive sight. Just another victim of today’s tough economic times.

But artist Heather Anderson is spearheading a project to restore some of that garden’s lost beauty – a glass mosaic design featuring fish, lily pads, frogs and butterflies against a background of water, which will cover all 700 square feet of boarded-up pool covers.

“I replied to an ad from the Botanical Gardens for someone to help with its website and newsletter,” said Anderson, who moved to the Bay area in 2009. “I started work on Thursday and by Monday I had come up with the idea for the mosaic design and presented it to the board.”

Chuck Scaffidi, president of the Florida Botanical Gardens Foundation, said “it didn’t take long for the board members to get caught up in the excitement of Heather’s proposal. Coincidentally, I had recently read an article in the New York Times about declining membership in gardens across the country and suggesting ideas for increasing interest. One of those was adding art to the gardens.”

The figures comprising the design, created by Anderson, are cut out of 2 by 4 sheets of stained glass, then glued onto a mesh backing. The mesh is then attached to a cement board, and in turn onto the plywood covers. When completed, the installation will be eco-friendly and low maintenance.

The project itself will cost the county nothing.

“Everything is being donated,” said Anderson. “It‘s a gift from the community to the Botanical Gardens for its 10th anniversary.”

The Botanical Gardens Foundation is buying the glass. Kathleen Bromley Rothman of the Stained Glass Studio of Clearwater is supplying labor for cutting out the figures and also training other volunteers in the technique. Ceramictec, a Tampa tile contractor, is donating installation labor, and Laticrete International is providing the setting and grouting materials. Gary Clark, of KAS Construction in Palm Harbor, along with Unity Church of Palm Harbor, is contributing the required rebuilding of the decking. The county has loaned the temporary use of a small house where the work is being carried out.

Anderson’s enthusiasm is infectious.

“Whenever I need something,” she said, “somebody seems to turn up. I talk about the project all the time to everyone I meet – they just stand there like a deer in the headlights!”

A number of volunteers are already at work, including several Botanical Gardens board members. More volunteers are needed and anyone interested can stop by the Botanical Gardens gift shop or e-mail flbgfoundation@gmail.com. Donations or sponsorships from individuals or companies would be welcome to help defray the costs being covered by the foundation.

Anderson, a native of Washington state, studied art in New York, where she also worked on renovations and landscaping. She has designed gardens in New Jersey and Illinois, and had her own art gallery in Chicago.

Her oil painting “Palouse Hills” was selected for exhibition from 1998 to 2002 in the American Embassy in Cameroon under the Art in Embassies program, which coordinates with U.S. ambassadors to choose the art for their embassies. John M. Yates, the ambassador at the time, is also a Washington state native and commented that the painting reflected “my own traditional image of the area in fall.”

Anderson is already looking ahead to future projects.

“I’m planning to use the glass left over after the figures are cut out to give a mosaic class at Bay Pines,” she said. “And hope to display some of the art work that the veterans create at the gardens and at Bay Pines.”
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