Mosaic mural at Center on the Hill is quite a relief

by Len Lear
Posted 12/23/22

For centuries, mosaic art has adorned the floors and walls of the rich and famous. Now Chestnut Hill has its own eye-catching installation.

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Mosaic mural at Center on the Hill is quite a relief


For centuries, mosaic art has adorned the floors and walls of the rich and famous. No ancient Roman villa would be complete without surfaces decorated with patterns, images, or scenes composed of small pieces of colored stone, glass or ceramics held in place by plaster or mortar. 

Now Chestnut Hill has its own eye-catching installation.

This fall 15 artists toiled to create a mosaic masterpiece at the Center on the Hill in the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill. The permanent outdoor installation, which was unveiled on Oct. 25, adorns a wall at the main entrance to the center.

It was the brainchild of Laura Lyn Stern, an instructor from the Mosaic Society of Philadelphia. Stern taught the group two sections of "Making a Mural: Bas Relief Ceramic Tiles," one to introduce them to creating relief tiles in clay and one to introduce them to glazing. 

“As you can see by the finished mural,” Stern said last week, “each student did amazing work. The variety of shapes and colors is so beautiful! I think it works so well in the entryway of the Center on the Hill and allows for those entering to see up close the variety of tiles. The students also made bas relief tiles to take home, hopefully to use as a part of their own mosaic piece!”

Stern and Mariangela Saavedra, director of the Center on the Hill, had originally planned to install the group mosaic on the exterior of the building.

“Technically,” said Stern, “that did not work out as planned.” She went on to explain, “The floral concept using shaped substrates (support material for the tiles) was selected as a way of bringing liveliness, color and joy to the space. The format also allows for additional floral shapes to be added over the years as well.”

Stern herself creates a wide variety of mosaic work. She creates unique custom installations for residential and commercial spaces. Much of the imagery she uses in her artwork encompasses themes related to the natural world. “The thing I love most about my work,” she said, “is working closely with each client to design a mosaic that truly reflects their individual aesthetics and functional needs for their space. It's an intensive process but very rewarding!” (You can view her work at

One of the artists who contributed to the mosaic was Trudy Wang, a Chestnut Hill resident for the past 41 years who says she took the Chestnut Hill West line every workday to center city beginning in 1969 until she retired from the General Services Administration (GSA) in 2014. She worked with several private firms as an architect before joining GSA, where she worked as a project manager, zone chief and fine arts officer.

“Architects have to master arts and engineering,” Wang said last week. “While I was in college and graduate school, I took watercolor, drawing classes and ceramics in addition to my majors. I had opportunities to learn weaving and silk screen. 

“When I became a fine arts officer, I had the opportunity to select artists for many new federal courthouses, federal buildings and border stations. Because of an artist named Jun Kanekohim, I fell in love with clay-related work again — such as mosaics. Arts have always a big part of my life since I was a child, and ceramics and play with clay were always my favorites.”

Another mosaic contributor was Kathryn (“Kass”) Dymecki, a Chestnut Hill resident for 46 years. “I am still doing watercolors,” she said, “because of my love of painting, but I am doing fewer in number in my old age. I anxiously enrolled in the mosaic classes but struggled in the beginning following Laura’s fine instructions and technique. 

“However, I did accomplish at the end a colorful monarch butterfly, which was not included in the permanent installation at the Center on the Hill, but I am enjoying it at home. The installation Is very clever and colorful, a must-see. It is on a white wall, which is very effective.

“I would highly recommend mosaic classes to anyone interested in arts and crafts. All necessary supplies are provided, and you will definitely create a lovely piece.”

For more information about the mosaic installation, email You can reach Len Lear at