Charles River Museum of Industry and The New England Mosaic Society Collaborative Project

One Hundred Sets of Hands

The New England Mosaic Society (NEMS) collaborated with the staff of the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation to design and create three large panels (42” x 68”) installed adjacent to the museum entrance on the Riverway. The designs explore the positive and negative impacts of industrialization on the Charles River and the surrounding landscape over the last four centuries. The final project was a gift from NEMS to the museum and includes the work of over 100 sets of volunteer hands: skilled mosaic artisans, craftspeople, and community members. 


What is the Backstory?  What am I seeing? 

Panel#1 represents the pre-industrial period of the 1600s. The animals and plants in and around the river are native to New England, and local Native American textile patterns are incorporated into the hills. The river is pristine.  

This panel represents the pre-industrial period of the 1600s. The animals and plants in and around the river are native to New England, and local Native American textile patterns are incorporated into the hills. The river is pristine.

The New England Mosaic Society created these designs in 2023 to explore the positive and negative impacts of industrialization on the Charles River and the surrounding landscape over the last four centuries. The intersection of art and technology helps to preserve history and provides an understanding of the societal and cultural trends that impact the community—people, land, the river.

Panel #2 portrays the height of the mill operation in the 1800’s when industrialization had altered the environment, the health of the river, and the experience of workers and residents. The patterns in the hills change, and fields are woven by a mechanized loom. On the left you can see a cut-away of a mill that used the river’s water to power its machinery. There are fewer plants and animals, and the river and sky are changed by industrial waste and pollution.

Panel #3 represents the current, post-industrial environment with both the detritus of former pollution and habitat destruction, and the authentic efforts of sanitation and environmental conservation. Ecologists lobby for environmental cleanup.  There is manufacturing debris in the hills (including parts from Waltham watches!), and invasive non-native species. You’ll notice that the soil beneath the cabin is filled with sewage and freshwater delivery systems, representing the built infrastructure that continues to serve us, with the canoe representing an upsurge in river recreation.  Two protest signs symbolize strong public interest and political will funneled toward environmental stewardship of the river. 


From Design to Execution

  • Conception, Funding, Design: The designs reflect historical research and conversations between NEMS and Charles River Museum from 2022-2023. Designs were completed in 2023, funding was secured from the Waltham Cultural Council to purchase substrates, hardware,  and other materials. 
  • Individual Mosaic Artists at work: Over 35 NEMS members volunteered; each individual animal, tree, rock, hill and building structure was created by a NEMS member in their own home or studio, using their own frost-proof glass, ceramic or stone materials, and delivered to the coordinator.
  • Community Engagement:   NEMS organized three community mosaic-making sessions during which members of the public – from small children to elders – – could help to mosaic the skies, the rivers and the fields.  Weather-hardy thinset mortar was used to adhere tiles to cementitious boards. In community centers, senior facilities, and the museum, more than 100 people participated in the project!
  • Weaving it all together: NEMS volunteers combined all of the individual components, facilitated the community workathons, grouted the sections, then cleaned the panels (for hours!) to make them shine. 
  • Finally…the Install!  Panels were installed on November 2, 2023, as a gift from the New England Mosaic Society to the Charles River Museum with the help from museum volunteers. We hope that they will be enjoyed and considered by the public for years to come.  


Community engagement is key. 

Art sometimes gets lost when there’s a strong societal emphasis on technology. Yet the intersection of art and technology helps to preserve history and provides an understanding of the societal and cultural trends that impact the community: people, land, river. We wanted this mosaic project to tell a story through art by involving the community as artists and makers. 
Through community outreach we were able to involve a diverse cross section of Waltham residents  – – people of all ages from toddlers to seniors, and immigrants from many continents. Mosaic artists from every New England state contributed. Altogether we created mosaics that describe the impact of technology on the river and its surrounds, from the 1600s to today. By being involved in this project, participants were part of something larger than themselves. They now have a sense of ownership in the mosaic murals, and the mosaic-making created a sense of community in a time when many people feel isolated from each other.



This project was supported in part by the  Waltham cultural council and  the Massachusetts Cultural Council.  

Thank you to: 

  • the museum staff and volunteers who helped to conceptualize the project and then  make it a reality.  
  • the thirty-Five NEMS members who served as grant writers, project coordinators, designers, and component creators: Ellen Aiken, Susan Altman, Su Bailey, Marybeth Barker, Lee Berman, Emily Bhargava, Erika Bourne, Angel Cacciola, Cheryl Cohen, Jean Cummisky, Jennifer Dowling, Cassie Doyon, Amanda Edwards, Laurie Frazer, Amy Gilman, Cheryl Klausner, Billie Klaegraef, Cecilia Kremer, Carol Krentzman, Joanna Liss, Nancy Maloney, Lori Manfra, Rebecca Manos, Amy Marks, Suska Matsik, Pat McCristian, Erika Robbins, Betsey Rodman, Kris Samuelson, Lora Spangler, Karen Stark, Kim Stewart, Jamie Tessler, Ann Thompson, and Roberta Tobey-Gertz
  • the Scandinavian center, the Waltham Community Center and the Charles River Museum for hosting community work sessions
  • Emily Bhargava, for serving as project coordinator, leading and managing each step of the process
  • Amy Marks, project organizer, for initiating the project, finding funding, and organizing all of the community tiling sessions

View Mosaics from the Collaborative Project

Mosaic Collaborative Project: A Team Approach to Creating a Diptych

NEMS members teamed up with other mosaic artist to create two original mosaics. Each person started work on a piece and completed one half of the mosaic. Then they swapped mosaics with the other person on their team. Your teammate then finished the mosaic you started. The challenge for the second person is to decide whether to continue and compliment the style of the first mosaicist, or contrast. This is an interesting way to work as it disrupts your usual flow and you have to respond to what is there. You get to keep the mosaic you started.  Many thanks to BAMM (British Association for Modern Mosaic) and to Marian Shapiro for coming up with this idea!


Size of Substrate: We recommend smaller substrates i.e. 8×8 or 8×10 or 10X10. However, each person on the team can determine the substrate size he/she uses.

  • Creative Concept/Inspiration: Teammates may talk about the creative design, theme and style to determine if they should be similar or different.
  • Substrate & Materials: Artists can use whatever substrate and materials they wish. Substrate materials could include: Wedi, Hydroban, MDF and more.
  • Method – The Artist can choose which ever method he/she wants to use. For example, you can use the direct method with thinset, or an indirect method with Weldbond. You can use multiple methods in each mosaic.
  • Only 2D mosaics will be accepted.
  • Items can be for sale or NFS.

Below are the entries from the project and the names of the participants

Angel Cacciola & Jane Snedeker


Jane Snedeker & Angel Cacciola


Roberta Tobey Gertz & Linda Biggers


Linda Biggers & Roberta Tobey Gertz


Richard Youngstrom & Audrey Markoff


Audrey Markoff & Richard Youngstrom


Beth Klingher & Laurie Frazer


Beth Klingher & Jane Chaskey


Laurie Frazer, Beth Klingher & Jane Chaskey


Linda Cundiff & Betsy Rodman


Betsy Rodman & Linda Cundiff


Nikki Sullivan & Deb Aldo


Deb Aldo & Nikki Sullivan


Ann Collins & Susan Altman


Elizabeth Martinez & Cynthia Fisher


Cynthia Fisher & Elizabeth Martinez


Amy Lou Marks & Suzanne Owayda


Suzanne Owayda & Amy Lou Marks


Su Bailey & Lauren Mehrberg


Lauren Mehrberg & Su Bailey


Candace Jackman & Suska Matsik



Suska Matsik &  Candace Jackman



Crystal D’Abbraccio &  Cecilia Kremer



Cecilia Kremer & Crystal D’Abbraccio



Maggie Neilly, Jeanne Bragdon &  Carrie Fradkin



Jeanne Bragdon, Maggie Neilly &  Carrie Fradkin



Carrie Fradkin, Maggie Neilly & Jeanne Bragdon



Cathleen Newsham & Michael Ferreira




NEMS Online Webinar Series:  All About Substrates and Adhesive

This Webinar occurred on Tuesday, February 26.  If you missed it, click on the link below to view the webinar in it’s entirety:

To VIEW WEBINAR, Click Here and you will be brought to YOUTUBE to view the webinar

Featured Speaker: Lou Ann Weeks, mosaic artists and cofounder of, a mosaic supply company that specializes in mosaic backers, co-producer of Mosaic Technique Videos, and editor of  How do you know which substrate (backer) is the right one for your project, and what is the right adhesive?  There are so many to choose from, and in this webinar, Lou Ann will help you make the right decisions. You’ll learn what criteria to consider before you start mosaicking. She’ll bring it all together and answer your questions during a Q & A period at the end of the webinar.


New York Subway Mosaic Tour

On December 1, 2018, Cathleen Newsham, (a founding member of the New England Mosaic Society), led a private tour for 16 of our members and thier guests of the New York City subway mosaics.  There are over 400 mosaics installed on subway platforms in the five boroughs of New York City, and this tour featured 10 of Cathleen’s favorite sites in the borough of Manhattan.

Newsham began her discovery of this immense underground museum eight years ago when a Manhattan family had a dream to create a fantasy Coney Island subway mosaic platform in thier bathroom. The family commissioned Cathleen to design, fabricate and install it, (complete with the family members in the seats of a roller coaster), which is when she began her research into the NYC subway mosaics.  Click here to see the completed mosaic and learn her process.

During the design phase of the project, Cathleen began photographing and cataloging these amazing works, which are part of the largest collection of mosaics in North America.  Since then, she has lead many artists, students and enthusiasts through the vast NYC transportation network to view these underappreciated works of art.  As a professional mosaic artists, she explained to our group the process of how the mosaics are designed, fabricated and installed, and gave participants insight into the complex process of creating a smalti mosaic.

Newsham is offering this same tour again on

April 6th, 2019, called,  Part I – Manhattan Subway Mosaics

To sign up for Part I, CLICK HERE

She has also added a Part IIOuter Boroughs and Off the Beaten Track on April 7th, 2019

To sign up for Part II, CLICK HERE

The Museum of Natural History subway stop features this aquarium mosaic as well as a variety of other animals and dinosaurs

Vik Muniz’s “Perfect Strangers” stunningly captures New Yorkers of all stripes awaiting the subway on the new Q line

Newsham joins Muniz’s cast of characters

“Shad Crossing”, Ming Fay’s nod to the immigrants of the lower East side’s main food source at the turn of the century

Member News

Each Quarter we will share member’s art, accomplishments  and accolades.  Here are some exciting things happening with our members!

Member Cynthia Fisher

I wanted to share my latest commission, an abstract mosaic for the First Parish Unitarian Church in Arlington, MA. The invitation to submit a proposal included this  summary of what the committee was looking for:
The artwork will create a beautiful, contemplative focal point for the front of the sanctuary.  We are looking for the work to convey a spiritual, inclusive, warm and life-affirming theme with a nod to nature and that is open to the personal interpretation of the viewer.
I was eager to comply and thrilled to win the commission as I have been eager to do a public art abstract for some time. The planning process was far more time consuming than my representational style of working. I struggled with the color sketch as when I work abstractly I don’t have a vision in mind when I start the process as I prefer to let the mosaic evolve with regard to use of color. The committee was understanding and I kept them apprised of my progress with photos along the way. One of the coolest aspects of the final mosaic is the inclusion of donations from the congregation, from a piece of the Berlin Wall to a key to a jewelry box from 40 years ago to an ear mold for a hearing aid. These contributions further the connection between the artwork and church members. I will be installing the 3 paneled mosaic at the end of November.

Member Roger Hill

I wanted to share my latest mosaic project with you because it is a tribute to a young man who passed away last year.

I got together with people at work who wanted to pay tribute to our friend, Nick, and his mom, Becky.

Together we raised money to buy a quality granite bench and I created this mosaic in memory of Nick.

I am very proud of this piece mostly because it is a tribute and also a fine gift of art for someone who has lost a child.

Just thought I’d let you know how impactful mosaic art can be as I am sure you already know.

I’d love to do more of these knowing that it can make a difference to a grieving parent who has lost a loved one.

Member Bette Ann Libby

Over 25 people of all ages participated in creating a mosaic mural 5’ x 4’ commissioned by JCOGS -Jewish Community of Greater Stowe, Vermont. Two years in the making, the mosaic finally came together over a two day workshop led by Waitsfield artist Bette Ann Libby. Composed of mirror strips, ceramic shards, and hand blown glass spheres, the image of a world of loving kindness “Olam Chesed”, will hang permanently in the foyer of the Jewish community center!!

Member Sally Dean

Sally Dean, who is the Education Coordinator at the Art Complex Museum in Duxbury, is designing a 24′ long mosaic to be installed in the sculpture garden at the Art Complex Museum.  This project is a part of the Plymouth 2020 Celebration.  The theme of the mural is herring run, or fish ladder.  The herring runs were an important resource for the first Americans. Both Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Tribe used them for food, and the Wampanoag also taught the Pilgrims to fertilize their crops using herring.

The mosaic will be created vitreous glass, high fired tiles made in our studio and at local Pottery in Norwell, Italian smalti , and natural pebbles. The project, facilitated by Sally, will take place in the Alden studio at several times throughout the year, and visitors will be invited to participate.

Members Lisa Houck and Amy Marks

 Lisa Houck and Amy Marks are co-producing a holiday Craft market. Nine artists will be selling their unique handmade gifts including jewelry, mosaics, prints, collage, functional wooden items, baby bibs, and more. 

 Date: Sunday, December 2, 2019

Time: 11:00 am – 4:00 pm

Location: Home of Lisa Houck, 88 Stoney Lea Road, Dedham, MA 


Member Candace Jackman

SAMA had a raffle for members who renewed their memberships early and Candace is the Winner of the Orsoni Workship in Venice, Italy! 

Candace shared her submission for SAMA’s One Hundred + Moments in Mosaic Project with us. 

Title: “Paying Homage to Mother Nature”

Candace says” When I was a child, our family went “rockhounding” with my grandfather.  He had a huge collection of specimens from all over the world. I grew to love the beauty of rocks and minerals which were the inspiration for this mosaic.”



Materials: This mosaic was created using Amazonite, Azurite and Pyrite/Fools Gold set in a small ceramic bowl using Lexel adhesive. Surrounding the bowl, the tesserae are Mexican smalti, Italian gold smalti and hand cut Blu Oltremare stone adhered with colored thinset.

Member Suzanne Owayda

Suzanne Owayda, owner of Mosaic Oasis Studio & Supply  taught one session of The Making of Art and Artifacts: History, Material, and Technique  at Harvard University to a group of 13 undergraduate students.  The focus was on a mosaic called Peahen Under a Tree, a mosaic floor fragment found in Syria and made sometime between 500 to 600 AD, it is currently in the Harvard University Art Museum collection. Suzanne gave a short power point presentation about the history and materials used to make mosaics  during the Byzantine period.  It was a hands on class so the students tried their hand using a hammer and hardie and the whole class recreated the mosaic (see the actual and the student representation) using stone and smalti glass.  Suzanne also showed images of modern mosaics using the ancient materials by NEMS mosaic artists and members, Cathleen Newsham, Pam Stratton, Deb Aldo, and Cynthia Fisher.  The students did a fabulous job recreating the mosaic and  Suzanne was relieved that no one smashed a thumb using the hammer!


Take 5+ With Lee Berman

1.  How did you get started in mosaic art?  

Arts and crafts have always been present in my life. My formal training in art was at Framingham State University. Then, about 5 years ago, while attending an open studio at the Fountain Street Studios in Framingham, I met Cheryl Cohen, who was exhibiting and provided my first exposure to contemporary mosaic art. About 6 months later I signed up for a few lessons with Cheryl. Unfortunately, I did not continue with mosaics at that time. I went on to take many classes and workshops in abstract painting, mixed media collage, jewelry, experimental acrylics and stained and fused glass. I rediscovered Cheryl in her Holliston studio a little more than a year ago and after a few classes and workshops I was addicted to mosaics. I attend at least weekly and am running out of space at home to store all my materials.

2.  What or who inspires you? 

That’s an easy one. It is the materials, color and the flow of nature
” I begin with an idea, and then it becomes something else.” (Pablo Picasso) Although I start with an idea, I am flexible and respect where the materials take me.

3.  What is your favorite material and why?

At this stage, I am still experimenting with materials and will use absolutely anything from nuts and bolts to bits of discarded thin set. So, my favorite material is the one that is currently in my hand.

4.  Where would you like to see your art go over the next few years? 
I want to continue to learn additional techniques, refine my skills, and conquer my fear of working larger than a square foot.


The Amanda Edwards’ mural at the Ronald McDonald House, Portland, ME and Cherie Bosela’s Diversity Mural in Orlando, FL provided me the privilege of contributing, in a small way, to two community projects. I would love to find additional community projects to which I could contribute.

5.  Share a tip, either mosaic or life?

Laura Rendlen provided this tip and it applies to both mosaics and life. If there is something in your piece that you don’t quite like or you are not sure about, get rid of it. If you don’t, you will never be happy with the finished product.

6.  Why do you mosaic?
To maintain my sanity and battle depression. Mosaics provides me a sense of accomplishment, pride and constantly challenges my creativity and skills. For each new piece my goal is to try something new, either a new technique or material. Through membership in NEMS, SAMA and Cheryl Cohen’s studio, I found a like-minded community of very special artists who are willing to share knowledge, techniques, and compassion. How exciting it is when someone looks at my piece and can share my vision?

7. What is the best workshop you have taken and why?
Each workshop I attended this year taught me something valuable and I am grateful to each of them: Cheryl Cohen’s Glass and Resin on windows, Amy Marks’ Polymer Clay Mosaics, Meagan Corrado’s Mixed Media Mosaics, Pam Straton’s Wonderful Potential of Smalti, Laura Rendlen’s Creating a Garden with Color, Texture and Light.