Photography by YUVIE STYLES
For 10 years, a three-panel mosaic has welcomed visitors at Lake Highlands North Recreation Center.
The piece, commission by the Lake Highlands Junior Women’s League and constructed by veteran teacher Christen Christie along with neighborhood volunteers and elementary-aged students, features local sights such as Flagpole Hill Park, White Rock Lake, the Wildcats football stadium and more.
“It took a village to finish for sure,” says Christie.
Christie’s two decades of teaching art, including seven years at Lake Highlands Elementary, culminated in the mural’s creation.
“I was a little nervous about doing it because I really think my best talent is getting the best artwork out of kids,” says Christie. “It was definitely a challenge for me.”
The project took more than a year to complete. Small pieces of glass were placed by hand on the three panels, each taller than Christie.
“I literally took the glass, put it in a pillowcase and broke it outside with a hammer. I mean it was very, very labor intensive,” she says.
Christie enlisted fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade students to help with the process. Parents and volunteers from the neighborhood helped take the piece through the last stretch of creation over the summer.
Ian Stroud, now a junior at Stephen F. Austin University, was one of the young students who helped Christie create the mosaic.
“It was at the rec center right next to my house,” Stroud says. “I’d always pass by that mosaic and just know that I helped work on it with a group of friends.”
Stroud is studying kinesiology and exercise science, but he hasn’t forgotten his time as an “artist” in elementary school.
“Art was usually like a blow-off class,” Stroud says. “Whenever she made it more fun, that made me want to care more.”
Christie began several of her now-favorite lesson plans when she taught at Lake Highlands Elementary, including her clay series, which involves bringing in 1,000 pounds of clay.
“I was committed to doing clay with every grade level, kindergarten through sixth grade,” Christie says. “I don’t think many other teachers did that, but I felt the joy that it brought the kids. I mean, they absolutely loved it.”
The mosaic at the rec center continues to be a talking point for Christie. Even though Christie has moved to Frisco ISD, she begins each school year by sharing with students a little bit about herself and her work. They always have plenty of questions to ask about the Lake Highlands mural, says Christie.
“They are so excited to see me, in their eyes, as an artist and that I did something for the community,” she says.
Returning to the mural after all these years was a rush for Christie, and a reminder of all the work that went into it with the help of many hands.
“It’s making me think…we maybe need to do a big community project again,” says Christie.