November 19, 2008
Rebuilding lives, one broken tile at a time
(Page 3 - Previous Page)For Alpert, who thought she could step back once Piece by Piece was operational, this has become more than a full-time job. She attends the workshops on Mondays and Fridays whenever possible, seeks out donations of money and materials, arranges exhibits, oversees all business aspects and forges relationships with other agencies. Right now, in fact, she is working with the Community Redevelopment Agency of the city of Los Angeles to become a pre-qualified artist for downtown beautification projects now required of new developments.
Piece by Piece currently has operating expenses of about $80,000 annually, according to Alpert, which includes instructors' salaries, materials, insurance and also fees. Thus far, about $30,000 worth of art has been sold, with 80 percent returned to artists for sold works and 50 percent for commissioned works. The nonprofit has received a $30,000 grant from Universal Studios Hollywood's Discover A Star Foundation -- along with a $5,000 commission for mosaicked flowerpot centerpieces for a special event -- and a $5,000 grant from Wells Fargo Bank.
On her wish list are additional donations of tiles, stones, mirror and glass. "We don't care if it's broken; we break it anyway," Alpert said.
She would also like wood and any pieces -- called substrate -- that can be mosaicked, such as boxes, trays and furniture.
Storage space is also a priority. Broadway Village has only a small closet for Piece by Piece's use and the James Wood Community Center offers none. Thus Alpert is currently storing materials and art works at her home and at her husband Alan's business, the Alpert & Alpert Iron and Metal scrap yard in downtown Los Angeles. She is constantly carting supplies and artworks in the back of her SUV, which more resembles a moving van.
Additionally, she is looking for a temporary storefront in which to sell art items, many with a Judaic theme, for the holidays.
And while Piece by Piece has grown beyond all expectations, Alpert occasionally loses one of her regular artists, which is often cause for rejoicing.
Cyndi Hayes, 43, married and the mother of four teenagers, became temporarily homeless due to a longer than anticipated recovery from surgery. Living in Broadway Village, she began attending workshops and quickly became a prolific artist, completing 30 pieces in 10 months. She netted $1,500, sufficient to buy a used Jeep, which helped her get a job at a property management company in her former capacity as a lease-compliance specialist.
The family has since moved to a four-bedroom apartment closer to downtown, but Hayes continues to make mosaic projects at home, crediting Piece by Piece for her turnaround.
"Miss Sophie never judged me for being homeless and that meant so much. She always encourages and brings up the best in everybody," Hayes said.
Image: Original lightbox by Chad Sperandeo