ATLANTIC CITY — Above the old St. Michael’s Church on Tuesday, three women worked diligently to shape, roll and cut clay to form tiles by hand for a large mosaic.

They’ve made about 1,000 tiles so far, but they need about 1,800 to complete their collective project to contribute to a new neighbor in the city: the Stockton University campus coming to the Chelsea neighborhood.

“Every piece has to be perfect,” said Donna Gaskins, one of the women working on the project.

The women behind the mosaic are part of MudGirls Studios in Atlantic City, a nonprofit that empowers economically disadvantaged and homeless women in the city through the creation of ceramics and pottery.

As part of a partnership with the Atlantic City Development Corp., their work will be a featured around a fireplace in a first-floor student lounge in a residential building at Stockton. The idea is to connect Stockton students with the Atlantic City community, said MudGirls founder and leader Dorrie Papademetriou.

“We want people to know that people have incredible potential, and given the chance to explore that potential, great things can happen,” she said.

The campus is part of the $220 million Gateway Project, which includes a new South Jersey Gas headquarters and a shared parking garage, set to open this fall.

Christopher Paladino, president of A.C. DEVCO, which is overseeing the project, said he noticed the efforts at MudGirls and thought their work would have a place in the new building.

“It’s not just a project, it’s a neighborhood, but it’s also a community,” Paladino said. “We try to find unique ways to find folks who live here to put their mark on it.”

The idea behind the mosaic is “land to sea,” representing the area between Stockton’s soon-to-be two campuses — one in the Pinelands and one at the shore, Papademetriou said. It will include different colors, patterns and textures to represent earth elements, such as grass, sand and water.

The room that will feature the mosaic is a communal area designed for student gatherings, Paladino said, and will be surrounded by glass, so it can be seen from the outside by people passing.

MudGirls Studios, which has a home in the old St. Michael’s Church on Mississippi Avenue, began in 2016 and brings women several days a week to the space to create different ceramics art and pottery that they can sell.

Many of the women who participate in the program Papademetriou met while teaching ceramics at Adelaide’s Place, a day shelter for homeless women in the city.

This particular project, which they started working on in June, allows MudGirls to be a part of the city’s revival, she said.

Gaskins, who was responsible for rolling clay Tuesday, said she was homeless for about seven years, and this project gives her something to put her mind to.

“This gives me a chance to open up my feelings,” she said.

The women work on the Stockton project almost every day.

First, they roll the clay to three-eighths of an inch in thickness and press the mold into the clay, later cutting the shape.

Then they glaze the tiles over and set them together for the mosaic.

“We’re a team, and we work together, and every piece is done by everyone,” Papademetriou said. “It’s fulfilling in many ways.”

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Contact: 609-272-7239 eserpico@pressofac.com Twitter @ACPressSerpico

Covering breaking news for The Press of Atlantic City since September 2016. Graduate of the University of Maryland, Central Jersey native.

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