8 Must-Visit Places in the US with Mosaic Art
Mosaic art designs aren’t just for your home, or something you see in Europe. If you’re starting to get interested in this ancient art form, you’re likely to start noticing it everywhere. As we continue with our summer road trip series, we’ve located 8 outstanding examples of mosaic art throughout the United States – each worth a special trip. Make sure to add them to your next vacation itinerary – or if you’re lucky enough to live in one of these cities, go visit them as soon as possible!
St. Louis, Missouri – Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis
Fondly known in St. Louis as the “Old Cathedral”, this building was dedicated in 1914. Visit for the outstanding mosaic art, and stay for the ambiance of this fully active Catholic church that welcomes all faiths.
The transept features work by esteemed Polish artist Jan Henryk de Rosen. The prolific de Rosen was frequently commissioned for plum assignments like the Papal residence and murals and mosaic for any number of cathedrals and churches, where it’s both inspirational and technically dazzling.
For sheer size, though, the dome of the Old Cathedral, is noteworthy on its own. It’s hailed as the largest mosaic in the world, and it’s located centrally in the United States! Let’s talk about the numbers involved in the incredible pieces. More than 41 million glass tesserae, in upwards of 7000 colors, were added from 1912 to 1988.
De Rosen is not the only famous name involved in the mosaic art designs. Tiffany Studios was in charge of the side chapels and sanctuary walls, which can be seen in a more up-close environment. Truly, the Old Cathedral is a place to visit for anyone who is a fan of the art of mosaic.
The Cathedral is open 7 days a week at 209 Walnut St in St. Louis, MO.
San Francisco, CA – Mission Creek Mural
The Mission District of San Francisco is a wonderful way to spend a leisurely afternoon. It has the highest concentration of street art in the city, and visitors can enjoy a pleasant walking tour that will immerse them in California culture and history, as well as vibrant surroundings.
In a district that chose to shape itself in the early 1970s with the addition of mural art, there are some outstanding sights. Our preference is the 1999 installation by Laurel True and Lillian Sizemore. With 64 sections, and length of 15 feet, this colorful piece looks at Mission Creek and San Francisco through a historical lens.
Native plants are portrayed with accuracy and the original bridge that once crossed the intersection viewers stand upon is shown, along with a loopy, appealing view of the San Francisco skyline and the green hills that mark the area.
It as commissioned to kick off the city’s greenbelt project that provided bike and pedestrian trails. Check it out yourself by strolling over to the intersection of Harrison Street and 16th Street.
Los Angeles, CA – Keely’s Labyrinth in Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools
Part educational tool for the teachers at this school compound, part meditation destination, and totally a unique mosaic art design that uses French encaustic tiles and black basalt stone slabs, this labyrinth was done by artist Lynn Goodpasture.
As the school was constructed at the site of the former Ambassador Hotel, the designs are derived from the originals that stretched throughout the landmark.
Students are encouraged to use the 690-foot piece of art as a meeting place and an outdoor classroom. The basalt stones can be used as slates for washable chalk, and the geometric proportions and shape lend themselves to teaching mathematical concepts.
The 690 sq ft labyrinth is paved with French encaustic tiles and black basalt stone. Custom tile designs are derived from encaustic tiles found throughout the Coconut Grove landmark that was razed to build the school campus, which is located at 7th and Catalina Streets, Los Angeles.
San Diego, California – Glass Mosaic Mural on Villa Harvey Mendel Building
One of the largest glass mosaic art designs is a don’t-miss on your next visit to San Diego. The piece is a tribute to community spirit, and is hard to miss, indeed, as it covers an entire side of a building.
Per the Botti Studio of Architectural Arts, the art, titled ‘Neighbors Helping Neighbors’, measures 43 feet wide and 72 feet tall. The exterior glass mosaic artwork is composed of 184 individual panels that approximately 3’x 5’ including 8 panels fabricated on clear laminated glass mounted over existing windows which can be viewed from the building interior during the day.
The scenes show a community busily interacting through sport, action, and good acts. The building itself houses elderly and disabled residents with fixed incomes, bringing the concept full-circle. It’s located at 72 17th Street in San Diego.
New York City, NY – NYC Subway System
The New York Subway stations have become a showplace for mosaic artwork – and not just in the ways that you’d expect. Although there are some gorgeous examples of station names inlaid into walls, there have also been less functional designs that provide a bright spot for commuters to rest their eyes upon used since the beginning of the system.
We’re not just talking about historical wildlife.
You can see an entire mindbending series of photorealistic portraits by Chuck Close at 86th Street.
Or 2000 tiles, each unique, at Flushing-Main that depict Flushing life, from pizza to baseball to date night, to by Ik-Joong Kang. “Happy World”, says the artist: “began when I was riding the subway every day. I was fascinated by the different people and things I saw, so I took small canvases with me and began to create the images that became the work. I hope these symbols… will make the tens of thousands of people who ride the 7 train every day talk about what they see and share their impressions.”
Hollywood Sign, CA – Space Invaders Characters Mosaics on HOLLYWOOD Letters
Prolific and mysterious French urban artist Invader has been stealthily adding his signature tile installations to famous locations around the world since 1998. His easily recognizable style of pixellated characters also has invaded each of the letters of the iconic HOLLYWOOD sign.
He’s been tile-bombing destinations with mosaic art in a number of cities, all while scrupulously maintaining his privacy. Here’s a rare shot of the artist putting up a piece in Paris, France.
Invader was actually arrested – his only time – for vandalism at the site when installing one of the small figures from the video game on a supporting post.
Per his official website, Invader has placed 214 of his small mosaic art designs around Los Angeles as of December 2018.
You can seek them out yourself, and visit the eight that have gone up at the HOLLYWOOD sign by hiking up on the easier Mt. Hollywood Trail from Griffith Park. Griffith Park lies just west of the Golden State Freeway (I-5), roughly between Los Feliz Boulevard on the south and the Ventura Freeway (SR 134) on the north.
Philadelphia, PA – Philadelphia’s Mosaic Gardens
The Magic Gardens in this city are built to live up to their name. Isaiah Zagar has created an immersive experience in this sculpture garden that delights visitors of all ages. Since 2008, a passionate community effort has allowed the installation to function as not only a museum, but a non-profit that gives back through education, exhibits, and outreach.
Zagar became committed to beautifying his Philadelphia neighborhood in the 1960s.
He recycled found objects into an array of surreal and beautiful sights, using vacant lots and buildings, Zagar and his wife led the “South Side Renaissance” in their area, bringing in artists and revitalizing the neighborhood. The vacant lot that held the majority of Zagar’s outdoor projects was rescued by community support and donations after a threat of bulldozing by the owner. Today, The Philadelphia Magic Gardens continue Zagar’s dream of outreach and public art.
Says Zagar: “It is an impossible place, but you can visit and smile and know that it exists somewhere. Now you know that place is in Philadelphia, and you knew it all along, didn’t you?”
The Magic Gardens can be visited at 1020 S St, Philadelphia, PA – Washington Square West.
San Francisco – Secret Mosaic Staircase (163 mosaic steps)
Any mosaic art design hunt that includes “Secret” in the name promises a treat for the visitor. Indeed, this community art project that is tucked away in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Heights neighborhood.
Artists Aileen Barr and Colette Crutcher created the theme, which takes walkers from the sea to the sky as they ascend the gorgeous outdoor staircase. With the help of over 300 volunteers, cleaning, repairing, and finally installing the tiles, the 163 steps were transformed into something extraordinary.
This beloved neighborhood feature is maintained by regular volunteer work days, where they repaint, clean, and work on the adjacent garden beds.
The steps can be visited at Moraga St. between 15th & 16th Avenue, in San Francisco CA. As it’s a neighborhood, the residents request that visitors respect parking and not litter.
If any of our destinations inspire you to add a little mosaic art design interest to your own home, don’t forget to visit our extensive catalog of art for all types of decors and uses. Let us know if we’ve missed any of your favorite public mosaic art gems in the comments!