Piece by Piece is a nonprofit mosaic art program and social enterprise, serving the neighborhoods of Skid Row and South Los Angeles and their surrounding areas. The program provides a safe space for arts wellness with opportunities to earn supplemental income through the sale of individual artwork as well as participation in making large-scale public art. The value of Piece by Piece’s social enterprise is two-fold: it provides purpose and creativity for the artists and provides opportunities for much-needed supplemental income. From skill-building to team-building, from individual expression to collective collaboration, the program supports individuals facing challenges and helps them realize their full potential to leave a legacy of art in their communities.
The organization was inspired by founder Sophie Alpert’s visit to South Africa in 2006. There, she encountered organizations that provided free beads and creative instruction for women living with HIV/AIDS, empowering them to create dolls and earn income. Alpert returned home and founded Piece by Piece to support underserved populations in her own community of Los Angeles. Piece by Piece launched its first workshop in 2007 and has been providing mosaic skills training for low-income and formerly homeless individuals in the community ever since. The high-quality work, professionalism and dedication of the artists has led the organization to create a legacy with large-scale work throughout the city and beyond.
An important aspect of the program is a strong sense of community and connection. The value of arts wellness and practicing creativity cannot be understated. The bonds that have developed within Piece by Piece classes have built friendships and created paths of empowerment and purpose. When COVID-19 shut down the world, the organization pivoted to online activity. Faced with a new challenge of the digital divide—many of the artists do not have access to the internet — Piece by Piece worked to connect them. During those uncertain times, artists pulled together and supported each other. When the virtual mosaic art workshops were in place, artists developed new computer skills, broadening their perspectives and professional possibilities.
Piece by Piece collaborated with other arts organizations in the Skid Row neighborhood to form the Skid Row Arts Alliance, coordinating arts kits, a Zine, and a website — all creative connections for artists sheltering in place. They remained connected to the communities they serve through art. With a social enterprise in place, Piece by Piece kept artists working on commissions, both large and small, both virtually and in-person, socially distanced.
One of Piece by Piece’s artists, Kim, had just started attending workshops when the pandemic struck. She adapted to attend virtual workshops where she developed her skills and became a certified artist. Kim’s first participation in a public art project was masked and socially distanced, working on a 20-foot mural for the Village Well bookstore in Culver City. In a recent interview about her participation with Piece by Piece, Kim said “It’s a lifeline. You give us the opportunity to create in a safe haven, to feed the soul as well as our minds…I enjoy being part of a community. You’re the sane place in an insane world. You guys took care of us during the pandemic.” Kim is now participating in her second large-scale project with a small team of her fellow artists.
Piece by Piece joined Social Enterprise Alliance (SEA) over five years ago. Being a member of the SEA helps them connect with other organizations facing the same challenges and provides useful tools to better support the people they serve. For more information, including commissioning work, visit www.piecebypiece.org.
To learn more about Piece by Piece, check out their member directory profile.