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Turnpike plaza mosaic created by Pittsburgh kids

Kristine Sorensen
November09/ 2017
The Pennsylvania Turnpike has a huge, new mosaic, and it was made from the ideas and hands of students at Riverview High School in Oakmont. The Turnpike is commissioning mosaics at all 17 service plazas, and they’re having local artists work with students and their community to create them.
The mosaic was created with broken tiles that look like a jumble of colors up close, but step back and the design appears as images of Western Pennsylvania, all the ideas of students at Riverview High School.

Pittsburgh artist Laura Jean McLaughlin led the project as a resident artist.

“I gave them an overview of mosaics and how some are thousands of years old, so it’s a wonderful opportunity to work on something like this,” she told the students.

McLaughlin knows a lot about mosaics and public art. She’s created many, including one at the Pittsburgh Zoo and Whole Foods. For this mosaic, she made the final image from the students’ drawings.

“I tried to incorporate as many of their ideas as I could,” she said, including the likeness of Gene Kelly, Andy Warhol, Mary Cassat and Mr. Rogers.

Riverview High School senior Gabriella Harley says, “It’s going to be really cool because I know I came up with the idea, and we worked on it for a month.”

The kids say they’re excited to have their work in a place that’s so public and where so many people will get to see it. “When we’re traveling, to be able to say to our kids or family members, ‘I put that piece in,’” is a thrill for senior Taylor Knapp.

The students, many who are in advanced placement art class, say it’s exciting to create the mosaic with an actual working, professional artist.

Senior Sydney Reyes was awed, saying “just even to be able to work with her has been a one of a kind experience.”

Harley adds, “She’s helped all of us become artists.”

You can read more about lots of impressive things kids are doing and things to do with your kids on kidsburgh.org — an online resource for families.

Kristine Sorensen

I am proud to work at KDKA-TV -- anchoring the news, hosting Pittsburgh Today Live and doing special reports. I am married to KDKA reporter Marty Griffin and we have 3 children. I first moved to Pittsburgh in 1999 but I’ve lived in Dallas, Johnson City, Tenn., Chicago, Williamsburg, Va., Milwaukee and Winter Park, Fla. Pittsburgh is now the place I call home.

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