Mosaics and Healing

Finding Beauty in Brokenness, collaborative mosaic

I have been making mosaics with communities since 1997. In those 12 years, I have seen how the art form, which creates beauty from brokenness, offers not only a symbol of healing, but a rite of creating renewed wholeness for those who make the mosaic. I have made mosaics with groups dealing with domestic violence (either as victims or as those working to help the victims). I have made mosaics with students in preschool, elementary school, secondary school, college, graduate school, even seminary. I have made mosaics with teens and adults in prison. For the past three years, I have overseen and facilitated The Cancer Mosaic Workshops for Indiana University Simon Cancer Center and have created mosaics with cancer patients, their caregivers, and doctors and nurses at IUSCC.

In all these experiences, I have witnessed people acknowledging their feelings of being shattered by illness, violence, abuse, loss, grief. And I have also heard people describe how the pain of these experiences gave them the  gift of being broken open to deeper love, fuller living, authentic healing.  I have come to understand that we “… must be broken open and remade, perhaps many times, to come to awareness,” as art therapist Pat Allen says in her book, Art is a Way of Knowing.

On this past Saturday, November 14, 2009, as part of Indianapolis’ Spirit and Place Festival, a group of people experiencing major illness and/or life changes gathered at the IU Simon Cancer Center to  create mosaics. We began the day with introductions, writing, and storytelling about our experiences of job loss, a rare bone disease, lung cancer, breast cancer, loss of loved ones, long-term physical disability. We then wove the healing imagery within these stories into collaborative mosaics.

At a Mosaic Workshop, November 14, 2009

In the photos shown here, several of the workshop participants are piecing together a mosaic of a lighthouse. The lighthouse symbolized to this group  the ways in which, in the midst of their own sea-changes and rocky  journeys, there have been people and places that shone a light for them, guiding them, helping them find their way.  The lighthouse also symbolized for the group the ways in which they have given a guiding light to others.

As the mosaic took shape, I observed much laughter, eagerness,  and enthusiasm in the faces, voices, and interaction of those creating it.  I knew that not only myself, but everyone in the room was feeling a surprising joy.  Community artist  Lily Yeh, who has made art and mosaics with such people as genocide survivors in Rwanda, describes what we were experiencing in this way:  “It is really through the depth of living, the chaos, the brokenness that I find peace.  Joy is rooted in the depth of our suffering.  It is out of my own brokenness, and the brokenness of others in the darkest of places, that I find that sense of joy.”  (Lily Yeh, as quoted by Terry Tempest Williams, in Finding Beauty in a Broken World, page 270.)

I sometimes imagine no longer having to haul numerous heavy boxes of tiles around the city, even the state, in order to bring mosaic workshops to interested groups. But there will always be suffering in the world, in my life, in yours.  And rather than trying to trying to ignore the pain of living, or to deny it, or defend myself against it, I chose to live and work in a way that both does not create unnecessary injury , and also compassionately accepts the pain that is here, now, offering us growth, change, healing.  It is because of this choice that I continue to provide community mosaic workshops.

I will be facilitating Cancer Mosaic Workshops for cancer patients and caregivers on March 6, May 1, July 10, and October 30, in 2010. Additional information about these workshops and how to register can be found

For information about scheduling community mosaic workshops for other groups, please contact me directly.


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2 Comments on “Mosaics and Healing”

  1. Ellen Munds Says:


    I am so excited about your blog! I think it will be a great vehicle in understanding the role of art therapist.

    • Liza Hyatt Says:

      Thanks Ellen! I am excited too. I’ve got a list of things I want to write about next. I don’t know why I didn’t do a blog sooner – but now feels like the right time.


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