The mosaic mural found at the front of the David O. McKay Center on the BYUH campus holds a story of its own. Built in Italy, sent back to Laie in crates, and put together by community members, the now-famous mural required both workers and community members to come together and exercise great faith.
Sharon Gray, the curator of the BYUH art collection and a Church-service missionary, shared, “The magic of the mosaic is its duration over time, it assures longevity, solidity, and everlastingness.”
Community member John Lingwall shared the story of his grandfather, Harold Boe, and uncle, Arnold Boe, who were part of the group who placed the David O. McKay mural where it resides today. Lingwall spoke of the process that went into putting it up, and also the challenges and miracles that accompanied the process.
Lingwall and Gray explained the Church had a picture taken of the community in Laie and the mural depicts a recreation of David O. McKay and the community at a local flag raising ceremony in 1921. Gray shared that artist, Edward T. Grigware, used the photo as inspiration for an oil painting he created. The painting was then sent overseas to Italy, placed under a projector, and cast down on a floor. The artists then came in and hand placed glass tiles on the open floor, which they cut into small tessera tiles and numbered them like puzzle pieces.
Gray shared, “Mosaic is a technique of fragmentation. You break up the stone, tile glass or other material into even smaller bits until it becomes tessera, or, a smaller square piece. Then each tessera is reunited with all of the others to recreate the original design.”
Once the mural was finished, all of the pieces were gently stacked and shipped in wooden crates. The crates were then put on boats and it took months for them to arrive in Hawaii. It was during this point in the process that Lingwall shared, “There were so many challenges.”
Gray said all of the crates that contained the pieces to the mural had arrived in Hawaii, except for one. This final crate included the instructions of how to put everything together. Because of this, those working on assembling the mural had to work by faith alone until the last crate arrived.
Working to put such a large amount of puzzle pieces together created the first challenge. Lingwall commented, “The artist who created the mural predicted it would take at least 30 days for the mural to be put together.” However, there was only one week until the center’s dedication.
Once the mural was put together, Lingwall shared how his grandfather had measured the width of the mural, and he discovered it would not be able to fit in the available space. This required Lingwall’s grandfather to cut seven inches of the mural.
Because the section was filled with current community members, it was necessary to carefully ensure none of the individuals were cut out. Lingwall commented, “To this day, there are only about a couple of people now who know exactly where the line is which was cut.”
In reaction to these challenges, Lingwall said, “My grandfather had so much knowledge of this, he knew Heavenly Father was going to help with everything.”
Lingwall added how with the combined efforts of the community, the mural was put up in less than 10 days. “They worked day and night, 24/7. The community would come to feed [the workers]. Community members would bring their cars, drive up on the brim and their high beams would be used as their lighting source at night.”
In an interview about the assembling of the mural, Lingwall’s uncle, Arnold Boe, said the process of knowing where exactly to cut the mural was inspiration from on high. He said, “It looks purely natural, but when you look at the photo, you can actually see there are two people who are supposed to be separated.”
Boe commented on all that went into the project. He said it came together because of “community efforts, Heavenly Father’s time, and having faith in the project.”