A world record is about to be broken. And the call is out for you to help. It’ll actually be two years before the record is official. That’s how long it’ll take to adhere nearly fifteen million recycled Mardi Gras beads in place. The South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority is hosting the Bead Town project to create the world’s largest bead mosaic. Artist and Bead Town Executive Director Stephen Wanger designed the Bead Town: Along the South Shore mural and leads the project. During the next two years visitors to the Indiana Welcome Center in Hammond, Indiana, are invited to participate in the project by placing beads in the mural.
The story behind Bead Town
Self-taught artist Stephan Wanger emigrated from Germany to Chicago 1990, where he worked on major tourism events for the City of Chicago. In 2006 Stephan temporarily moved to New Orleans to help the city recover from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. “I wanted to give something back to this amazing country that I’m a citizen of now,” Stephen explained. “I’m very grateful for the many opportunities this country has provided me.”
While exploring New Orleans, Stephan noticed the incredible amount of Mardi Gras beads thrown away at Carnival—over 10,000 tons every year. So he decided to recycle the beads into art. In 2010 an elementary school art teacher contacted Stephan and asked if he would donate an art piece so she, in turn, would be able to teach the art form to her students. Stephan suggested that since the art form is so cumbersome, they create a small exhibit together. And Bead Town was born. Since then, Bead Town, which is now a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, has educated over 25,000 students and visitors in Louisiana, Indiana, Illinois, and Canada.
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The current world record holder
Currently the Guinnes World Records™ holder for the largest bead mosaic is Bead Town’s Life in the French Quarter mural. Students from three states worked on the project. It was completed by students in Gary, Indiana, in May 2017, in time for the 2018 New Orleans 300th anniversary celebration. The mural measures 96 feet long and is 8 feet tall. It features Joan of Arc at the Mardi Gras parade. It also includes celebrities who called New Orleans home. Life in the French Quarter is currently on display at the Indiana Welcome Center, so visitors can get an idea of how massive the new project will be. Until I actually saw the mural during a recent press conference, I couldn’t picture in my head just how large—and stunningly beautiful—it is.
Other Bead Town artworks created in northern Indiana were also on display during the press conference. Do you recognize this famous group from Gary?
About the new exhibit/project
The Bead Town: Along the South Shore mural will stand 8 feet tall with a 204 foot circumference, so more than twice of the size of the New Orleans mural. Standing in the center of the Indiana Welcome Center exhibit space, visitors will see northwest Indiana by day and the Chicago skyline by night. The daylight side starts with the Statue of Liberty and ends with the Golden Gate Bridge. In between will be northern Indiana landmarks, signifying Middle America. The Indiana Dunes and the Grist Mill at Deep River County Park are among the landmarks that will be part of the mural. In addition, the mural will incorporate a person from each of the 242 countries and territories around the world.
How you can participate in the Bead Town project
Visitors to the Indiana Welcome Center are invited to place beads on the mural from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. There is no fee, and the project is open to all ages. In addition, you can participate in Bead and Brew Events held throughout 2018 at Byway Brewing in Hammond. (There is a fee for the Bead and Brew events.)
The Bead Town project will be on display at the Welcome Center through September 30, 2018. It will then be taken down to make room for the annual “A Christmas Story Comes Home” event. The Bead Town project will then resume in 2019.
The Indiana Welcome Center is located just off of I-80/94, Exit 3 (the Kennedy Avenue exit), at 7770 Corinee Drive in Hammond, Indiana. Check the website for further details about Bead Town: Along the South Shore.
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