The House of Hope
Dating back to the late-20th and early 21st centuries, Latino migrants and their families came to Wisconsin, mostly settling in Waukesha, where they worked in a mix of agricultural and industrial jobs. Their struggles were deeply associated with immigration policies, labor animosity, religion, discrimination and nativism. Today, after great opposition over the decades, Latinos proudly make up a rapidly growing portion of the Wisconsin population.
Founded in 1966, La Casa de Esperanza, which stands for “The House of Hope,” is a full-service charter school located in Waukesha with a mission to provide opportunities for children to achieve full social and economic participation in society, with emphasis on the Hispanic population. One of the most important goals of the school is to engage their students in the history of their culture in Waukesha by teaching them how their ancestors paved the way for future generations to experience an abundance of educational and economic opportunities. In 2016, La Casa de Esperanza was awarded $20,000 by the Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s Mary L. Nohl Fund for the construction of a 14’x24′ (4.2m x 7.3m) mosaic mural on the façade of its new charter building, which would enable the school to expand and accommodate for more students, programs and activities.
Shari Campbell, Chief Operating Officer of La Casa de Esperanza, tapped Milwaukee-based mosaic artist Ann Wydeven to design the mosaic mural, and engage more than 50 students and community members in the project through discussions and workshops to learn about the culmination of La Casa de Esperanza’s history. Not only would this be educational for students, it would provide them with the opportunity to create mosaic designs of their own that would be incorporated throughout the finished mural.
To efficiently and effectively install hundreds of individual sheets of glass and ceramic mosaics that would bring the mural to life for the community to enjoy for generations to come, a solid team was a necessity. La Casa de Esperanza entrusted Pete Orlandini with Orlandini Flooring Inc., Dave Bergmann with Stier Construction and Tom Kavajecz with Dream Big Tile and Flooring to handle the mosaic mural installation.
Harsh Weather Conditions: Exterior installations in Wisconsin are subject to temperature extremes that range from negative 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-6°C) in January to 101 degrees Fahrenheit (38°C) in July. Plus, a 50 degree (10°C) temperature swing in a 24-hour period is not unheard of, so finding products that could withstand these conditions and have a proven track record of performing was vital for long-term stability.
Smooth Transitions: With the intended look for this piece of art to be a massive mosaic painting, the team needed to make sure the images flowed easily without seeing a grout line. However, since the mural fit together like a puzzle that didn’t perfectly align, the installers would have to find a grout that would bridge the color gap from glass tile to glass tile instead of isolating every piece and making the mural look like a grid.
A LATICRETE solution
Once Wydeven’s workshops with La Casa’s students commenced, the installation team prepped for the moment everyone had been waiting for by skim coating the exterior wall where the mural would be. HYDRO BAN® was then applied. As a thin, liquid-applied, waterproofing and anti-fracture membrane by LATICRETE, it’s designed to save construction professionals time and money on the jobsite.
Thanks to its rapid-drying formula, installations that utilize HYDRO BAN are completed quicker, which allows installers a faster time-to-tile. Further, it’s equipped with Microban® anti-microbial protection and is certified by third party agencies for low-VOC content to help achieve sustainable building goals.
Finding a premium tile adhesive mortar that could not only handle the harsh weather conditions, but also protect the glass tile façade made 257 TITANIUM™ an easy choice for the next step in the installation process. In addition, the product was specifically chosen for the install because it is the ultimate thinset for porcelain, thin porcelain and glass tiles. 257 TITANIUM is a lightweight high-performance thin-set mortar by LATICRETE designed to function in commercial, residential and industrial applications.
257 TITANIUM exceeds ANSI A118.15, the industry’s highest performance standard for a cementitious based adhesive mortar, providing worry-free interior, exterior or submerged installations. Additionally, 257 TITANIUM utilizes LATICRETE HYDROMATIC CURE CHEMISTRY™ which accelerates the hydration process to rapidly consume water in the system, allowing the material to cure in a predictable manner.
Lastly, SPECTRALOCK® PRO Premium Trans-lucent Grout was used to literally make the grout lines vanish into the beautiful multicolored mural instead of outlining every individual tiny piece of glass. La Casa de Esperanza was the first place this particular grout was introduced in the marketplace, making it a monumental milestone for both Wydeven and LATICRETE. It’s a patented high-performance epoxy grout that offers customers a unique opaque color that diffuses light for a vibrant finish. It features superior non-sag performance, unmatched stain resistance and color uniformity for an even finish without any blotchiness or shading, which was vital for a mosaic mural such as La Casa’s. Other product features include an 80-minute working time at 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21°C), high UV and chemical resistance, no sealing required and crack-resistance properties.
“The consistent flow of images in the mural was due to excellent installers and the translucent epoxy grout,” said Wydeven. “This is an exterior wall and subject to freeze-thaw conditions, making physical strength and visual strength my main reasons for wanting to go with the product. By allowing me to use this translucent grout, I feel this project truly was successful in the way I had envisioned it.”
Wydeven taught the students to craft the 350-square foot (32.5 square meters) mural using traditional techniques of cut paper (papel picado), paint and tile to learn about the design and cultural history of the mosaic. They created mosaics of their own design, and finished their workshop by designing and creating the border medallions in the mural. The migration of the Latin/Mexican immigrants to Waukesha, and what La Casa de Esperanza meant to them, was discussed and served as each student’s muse. Symbolic images represent those feelings, with Monarch butterflies flying over the landscape representing the migrating families.
The design story begins at the top with factories and agriculture, two areas of early employment for this immigrant population. The center of the mural is about the specific area of The Strand, where the original site was located in a small home (which is also in the mural). The lower half showcases the importance of fiscal, academic and cultural education, highlighting the strength of the generational family and how education is a major component of building community.
The finished La Casa de Esperanza mural perfectly accomplished the school’s vision of paying respect to the decades of Latino influence throughout Waukesha’s history and their honorary contributions that paved the way for future successes.
“I cannot express enough the gratitude I feel for the service I received from both Contractor Sales Representative Jeff Kimmerling and the entire organization. He was so generous with his time and LATICRETE was so generous in supplying us with product before it was publicly available. There is still not a single day that I am not appreciative of the assistance, guidance and the knowledge LATICRETE was able to give me,” concluded Wydeven.
At Coverings 2021 in Orlando this past July, La Casa de Esperanza was part of the MAI 21 – Mosaic Arts International annual juried exhibition. The complete collection of 54 selected works was shown virtually beginning in February 2021. At Coverings, Society of American Mosaic Artists (SAMA) displayed images of the 10 works selected for the Architectural and Site Specific mosaic segment of the exhibition, representing the best in contemporary architecture and in-situ mosaics from SAMA’s diverse international membership.