The Kentucky Mirror Mosaic, one of Owensboro’s most recognizable landmarks, is in the process of being replaced with the hopes of unveiling a new project by Christmas.
Commercial artist Gary Bielefeld led the project 36 years ago and is heading the restoration of the mosaic now. He said while the mosaic will look mostly the same once it is restored, there will be a slight change, which he wants to keep a surprise.
“It will be evident long before we are done,” he said. “We are just going to spice this one up a bit.”
One thing that will not change is the bronze glass used for the word “Owensboro” and the star marking the city’s location in the state, which Bielefeld says is still in good shape. Additional text of “Welcome to Owensboro” may also be incorporated, he said.
The remainder of the mirror mosaic is in need of replacement, Bielefeld said. The Downtown Neighborhood Alliance, who is helping fund the project, said members find fallen mirrors every day.
A combination of freezing and thawing, the direct sunlight the mirrors receive and chemicals wearing off the mirror backing has caused the pieces to fall, Bielefeld said.
“We are hoping we get 50 years out of the mosaic this time,” he said.
Located on the Frantz Building Services Building at 319 E. Second Street, the Kentucky mosaic spans 110 feet across and 43 feet high. It took four months and two tons of glass to complete with a 25 to 30 person crew.
After graduating from Kentucky Wesleyan College, Bielefeld approached the owner of the building about the idea of an art installation on the facade 36 years ago.
“Back then, the bridge was the only way in to Owensboro,” he said. “I just couldn’t believe no one had done anything with that wall.”
The project, which garnered him only $300 for four months work, led Bielefeld to a successful career of commercial art projects, including the larger-than-life Wetzel’s grocery sack and the toolbelt mosaic at Thriftway, both of which are no longer around, and the paintbrush at Paint Headquarters, which still exists today.
While scraping off the mirrors is easier than he anticipated, Bielefeld said he spent three hours over the weekend on the project and only removed 100 square feet. Members of the Downtown Neighborhood Alliance have offered to volunteer and Bielefeld would also like to see volunteers from the original installation help as well.
The cost of the project has not yet been determined, but Bielefeld plans to approach both the City and County regarding the restoration.
Bielefeld has also consulted the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention and Visitors Bureau regarding the project.
Visit Owensboro President and CEO said it is community art like the Kentucky Mirror Mosaic that sets a city apart from others.
“This mosaic is a part of several projects that when you pull them all together showcases Owensboro,” Calitri said.