Mosaic Art


As a result of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Compare and contrast the mosaic work of Brazilian mosaic artists Jorge Selarón (Rio de Janeiro) and Bel Borba (Salvador).
  • Recognize and describe the Escadaria de Selaron
  • Explain the role of public art.
  • Define “public art.”
  • Identify the site specific aspects of each artist’s work.
  • Create a site-specific public work, mosaic, or collage based on one artist’s work.
  • Display work in public setting (school or other site).
  • Discuss the role of mosaic art in Brazilian culture.
  • Describe the mosaic process.
  • Examine and analyze ceramic tile forms.

Discussion Question(s)


  • What are the similarities and differences between Selarón and Bel Borba?
  • What is the purpose of public art?
  • How does art record and communicate the human experience?
  • To what extent does the existing culture influence the artist working within it?
  • How can one person make a difference in the world?

Materials Needed


  • Vocabulary sheet.
  • For tile mosaic: tiles, broken plates, grout, tile, adhesive, tile nippers, and plywood (for non-permanent mosaic).
  • For mixed media mosaic: self-adhesive foam, buttons, beads, magazines, variety of recycled 2-D and 3-D materials, cardboard or Sur-Foam with glue for mounting.
  • For two color paper mosaic (in style of Bel Borba): dark roll paper with white paper “tiles” or white self-adhesive foam.
  • Video images of Escadaria with Brazilian music in background (5:15 min.) (October 22, 2009)
  • Portuguese language video of Selaron at work on stairway with scenes showing incomplete areas and the mosaic process (5:12 min.) (October 22, 2009)

Related Resources:

  • Biggs, Emma. (2001) Outdoor Mosaic: Original Weather-Proof Designs to Brighten Any Exterior Space.
  • Biggs, Emma. (1996) The Encyclopedia of Mosaic Techniques.

Related websites:

Set Up and Introduction


  • Prepare pictures of regional public works of art.
  • Think about a place in the school or community where students might create a mosaic.
  • Introduce Escadaria with clip from any of the You Tube videos listed above or with the pictures included on this website.(Mosaic images)
  • Escadaria is the Portuguese word for staircase.

  1. Discuss the themes of the works and how they relate to the site(s) and community (society).
  2. Discuss the concept of Public Art and how it differs from art that one encounters in a museum.  
  3. Review the vocabulary provided on the worksheet, relating the words to the discussion.
  4. View pictures of regional public works of art and discuss the themes and location and how they relate to each other. 
  5. Discuss appropriate themes for mosaics.
  6. Students design and sketch an option in the style of each artist.

If you have the means to create a tile mosaic:

  1. Select a site in the school or community and get initial permission to create a site/community specific mosaic mural.
  2. Individually or in small groups, students discuss and sketch ideas for the mosaic (2-3 days). Students write an Artist Statement describing their mosaic. (Artist Statement Sheet)
  3. Present and critique student sketches to narrow the selection to three possibilities which are then presented to those who must approve the installation.
  4. Upon approval, the teacher must visit the site for initial planning. Assign each student a specific quadrant of the mosaic to work on. Not all students will be able to work on their quadrant at the same time. If students are not working on the mosaic, they can be preparing tile or assisting a group that is working.
  5. Work out a schedule and complete the mosaic.

If no public space is available, create a mosaic on a piece of particle board or plywood creating a temporary installation. One mosaic can be completed by the entire class or smaller pieces can be made by individuals for display throughout a space.

  1. Individually or in small groups, students discuss and sketch ideas for the mosaic (2-3 days). Students write an Artist Statement describing their mosaic. (Artist Statement Sheet)
  2. Present and critique student sketches to help students improve and refine their ideas.
  3. Complete the mosaic.  If one mosaic is created by the entire class, create a work schedule and alternative activities for students.
  4. Display the mosaic(s) for public viewing.

If you do not have the materials to create a mosaic, Bel Borba’s techniques can easily be adapted for paper mosaics.

  1. Look through the images of Bel Borba’s mosaics and identify common characteristics.
  2. Sketch out an idea for a mosaic in this style. Students write an Artist Statement describing their mosaic. (Artist Statement Sheet)
  3. Use black construction or roll-paper for the background of the mosaic.
  4. Use white paper and glue to create the “tiles.”  Instead of paper, white, self-adhesive foam (such as that is available at can be used to create their images.

Extending the lesson:

  • Seek out mosaic artists or mosaics in your community and take a field trip to view them.
  • Create a tile to send to Selarón to incorporate into the stairs

Assessment and Wrap Up


  • Display the mosaic(s) possibly having a public unveiling.
  • Give a vocabulary quiz on words related to the lesson.
  • Discuss (or have students write answers to questions such as:
    Which artist do you prefer? Why?
    What public art have you seen in your community?  Did it have a theme?  Did it relate to its surroundings?
    What reaction did you have to public artworks you’ve seen?