3001 Chapman St.
Oakland, CA 94601
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| Laurel True is an artist and educator specializing in the mosaic arts. She is the founder and executive director of the Institute of Mosaic Art in Oakland, California. Over the past 11 years, True has taught hundreds of students of all levels who are interested in the mosaic arts. She teaches courses of all levels at IMA in Oakland's Jingletown Arts District, as well as at Esalen Institute in Big Sur and at New Orleans School of Glass. |
True has been working in mosaic media for over 15 years. Her studio, True Mosaics Studio, specializes in architectural mosaics, public art and community mosaic projects. Laurel has created, directed and facilitated hundreds of projects across the country. Her permanent artworks are sited in commercial spaces, hotels, hospitals, civic buildings, parks, schools and in residential and public settings.
What are you trying to achieve with your art?
Mainly, my goals are to do work that is publicly accessible so people don’t have to go behind locked doors to see it. I like to bring in both arts education and permanent projects that reflect the culture of a certain area.
Where in Oakland can people see your work?
The building façade at the Institute of Mosaic Art. The dolphin statue at Bertha Port Park at 11th and Wood St. Three large murals - each 15 feet tall - are at 9th and Clay Street. They’re entitled Oakland Arts and represent Line and Form, Music and Dance. My most recent works in Oakland are at Firehouse 18 at 50th & Bancroft. They are very abstract references to the tree of life, slices that show tree rings symbolizing history. On my website there is a link to a map with information and locations for some 75 of my works in the Bay Area.
What are your mosaics made of?
My work is generally known for bright colors – usually ceramic tiles - and mirrors and glass, but recently I’ve been using repurposed rubble. The murals at Firehouse 18 include brick from the old firehouse, concrete and asphalt. The tree rings will include historical photos etched onto aluminum.
How does living and working in Oakland influence your work?
I love Jingletown – it’s full of artists and lots of creative energy. It has a real neighborhood feel. It’s overflowing with talented people. I moved to Oakland 12 years ago from the Mission District in San Francisco. When I moved here, it was more affordable and I had access to space. My work got a lot more focused and I became more productive.
What do you enjoy doing in Oakland in your free time?
Oakland has great restaurants – particularly in the Uptown area now. There is such ethnic diversity that you can get anything here. I spend time each year in New Orleans teaching. I like that Oakland has food from every culture – that hasn’t hit New Orleans yet.
You have visiting instructors at the Institute for Mosaic arts. Where do they come from?
Oakland has become a hub for mosaic artists. We’ve had artists from Japan, Chile, Mexico, Brazil, Germany, France, Puerto Rico, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Kenya and India.
Do they stay in Oakland while they are here?
Of course! We have a corporate account at the Executive Inn and Suites. They have a terrific shuttle service from the hotel to our school. It’s really, really convenient. Everybody is really happy with the hotel, which is on the water and is convenient to the airport.
Where do you suggest they go in Oakland while they are here?
I always direct people to Uptown, Lukka’s Taproom, Flora, Café van Kleef. Some people I’ll send up to Rockridge or Temescal. Or the Chop Bar at Jack London Square. If Art Murmur is going on, I always send people to that.
Do you have students who come from out of town?
Most definitely. Since we’ve opened we’ve had thousands of people take classes, many of whom come from out of town just to study here. Others are beginners. We have a 5,000 square foot building, with two exhibition spaces, three classrooms and a retail store. Some of the visiting professors have done a work in the neighborhood while they are here so there are now 17 mosaic murals in Jingletown, beautifying the neighborhood and drawing people to the area just to see the murals.
What types of classes do you offer?
We offer more than 80 unique classes and workshops. Everything from beginning classes to advanced techniques. Some students take a whole series of classes and become professionals. There are architectural application classes so people can make things like mosaic backsplashes for houses. But the overall goal is to foster creativity. We provide a fun and inspiring environment for people to explore their creativity.