top of page

Hope still flying

Hamilton (Ohio) – When the world shut down, artists rose up.

During a time of isolation, artists found a way to connect. Not only with one another, but also with an audience that has grown consistently both in number and appreciation since their work appeared.

The Wings of Hope mosaic project at the Fitton Center for Creative Arts recently marked the first anniversary since its dedication. Lead artist Lori Kay Farr – the veteran Fitton Center mosaic instructor - said the work still resonates a year later.

“I picked a butterfly because I felt like it mimicked what we were being asked to do – cocoon and isolate,” Farr said. “But it was also something positive among all the sadness and death that was going on. There was hope and metamorphosis. It had good imagery.

“There’s something about mosaics being made of many pieces and being brought together to make one piece of art.”

Understatement alert.

Wings of Hope started as a simple way to keep Farr connected with 38 Fitton Center students in March of 2020 when the pandemic first closed the building.

It grew to encompass more than a thousand butterflies - 1,026 to be precise - contributed by 392 artists from 29 states and eight foreign countries. Plus a trio of honey bees from Caroline Jariwala of Mango Mosaics in the United Kingdom. And because 2021 was the year of a Brood X resurrection, a single cicada.

To say nothing of the background tiles in which the butterflies are set around four pillars in the pergola area on the east side of the Fitton Center along Monument Avenue.

Initially, Fitton Center executive director Ian MacKenzie-Thurley wasn’t sure what to do with the idea. With day-to-day changes in pandemic protocols and uncertainty about when artists might safely convene again, the concept of a public art project went to the back burner.

By December – with vaccines on the horizon and the possibility of safely gathering again getting close - the plan returned to the forefront. A call to artists went out in March 2021 with the idea of covering one pillar. The floodgates opened, eventually leading to a four-pillar installation.

“We started receiving butterflies within a week,” Farr said. “One lady made 52 butterflies, one for each week in a year.

“I know three students who had Covid, survived it and said they wanted to create something that said they were still here, still fighting, still surviving through all of it. There was an Indian artist whose town went in lockdown. The first day she was allowed out, she went to the post office first thing to send her butterflies.

“The notes that came with them were unbelievable – people saying things like ‘I haven’t been in my studio for a year and this was the first reason for me to start creating again.’ It was amazing. “There are a thousand different stories on those columns.”

Farr enlisted her husband Darrin and son Brennen to assist with the installation, as well as a pair of out-of-town artists she met through online mosaic communities. Misha Moore and Kim Rexford came in from Colorado and Connecticut, respectively, to lend their expertise. “Up close you’re seeing each individual title, but from a distance you see a much bigger picture,” Farr said.

With fall classes and workshops starting this week, Farr is ready to be fully immersed in her classroom work again. But just outside the mosaic studio window stands an enormous piece of her heart.

“There isn’t a map to tell whose butterfly is whose,” she said. “They’re all together. Part of the fun of it just going in and doing the ‘I-spy,’ looking for your own butterfly, one you know somebody else made, or the cicada or the bees. I find joy in just looking out the window and seeing people engage with it.”

The complete list of Wings of Hope participating artists is right here.

The Fitton Center for Creative Arts is located at 101 S. Monument Avenue on the Riverfront in downtown Hamilton, Ohio.

Building Community Excellence through the Arts and Culture

43 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page