Schoolteacher makes Our Lady of Guadalupe mosaic

Felicia Gregory of St. Mary School in Johnson City fashions artwork out of lids from baby food pouches  

By Casey Keeley

The newest work of art on display at St. Mary School in Johnson City, a mosaic, is the fruit of their own staff member’s labor. Felicia Gregory has been the art teacher at St. Mary since 2017 and began this project as a way to upcycle lids from baby food pouches that her children were consuming at the time.

“The options were to either throw them away to be sent to a landfill or to make something beautiful out of it,” said Ms. Gregory. “They were being used anyway, so I decided to put them to good use.”

Ms. Gregory decided to become a teacher following in the footsteps of her parents. Her mother was a high-school Spanish teacher, and her father was an elementary-school art teacher like herself. Because of her upbringing surrounded by the fine arts in a variety of forms, Ms. Gregory grew up seeing the beauty that can be created by the seemingly mundane items that most people take for granted.

“I want to be able to teach my students that you can be creative with anything that’s around you,” said Ms. Gregory. “It’s very easy to find commonplace things and make art out of them.”

Ms. Gregory chose to make the mosaic in the form of Our Lady of Guadalupe because of it being one of the most easily recognized images of Mother Mary and because it harbors an appreciation for the contrast of the colors on the original image. The new addition to the art collection at the school is the fifth form of the icon on the church campus and the only one created by hand from a member of the church.

“Here at St. Mary’s we have a strong devotion to Our Lady,” said school principal Becky Frye. “Our Lady of Guadalupe represents diversity, so having so many representations of that image on our campus within both the school and the church is a blessing for us to be able to showcase that devotion.”

Because this mosaic was created by using everyday materials, it automatically qualifies as a conversation starter for those who see it. This has the potential to have a major evangelical impact on the community, when taking into consideration that some of the students who attend St. Mary School do not come from Catholic households. The school acts as a host for several community, parish, and school events that will potentially expose people to the faith who may not have a positive outlook on Catholicism otherwise.

“Back when people were less literate and unable to read the Bible for themselves, art was the way that faith was communicated to people through images and paintings,” said Ms. Gregory. “Art is an aesthetically pleasing form of communication.”

The project took three years from start to finish because of the process of collecting the materials from families of students and members of the parish, finally coming to a completion Aug. 3 and just in time for the 2022-23 school year. The 4-by-8-foot piece is on display near the gym inside St. Mary School.

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