Mending a marred mosaic

Repairs on MU’s Tiger Spot remain a work in progress and will be that way indefinitely
Monday, January 12, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:53 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

Almost two years and three months ago, the Tiger Spot mosaic on MU’s campus was unveiled during Homecoming to a crowd of students, faculty and alumni beneath a shining sun. Now, in the midst of winter and daily below-freezing temperatures, work has stopped on the donation by local artist Paul Jackson.

“The frigid temperatures will likely delay the progress of the repairs somewhat,” said Christian Basi, assistant director of the MU News Bureau. “This has been a university-wide effort involving the coordination of several offices.”

The College of Arts and Science is one of them. According to David Roloff, director of alumni relations at the Reynolds Alumni Center, all donations go through the college and the Alumni Center has nothing to do with the Tiger Spot.

The Tiger Spot was unveiled on Oct. 12, 2001, and is on the north side of Ellis Library on Lowry Mall. It is a 30-foot diameter mosaic depicting the face of a Bengal tiger and is made up of nearly 1½ tons of multicolored Italian glass.

The history of the Tiger Spot is filled with criticism, accusations and wasted time and money. A total of $207,500 has been received from gifts and pledges by donors. The money is still being tapped as the project continues.

An $11,000 drain has been installed and billed to the university, not taken from donations. The drain was installed because of water that ran down the steps of Ellis Library, destroying parts of the mosaic. The drain is now in place and working properly, Basi said.

At Lowry Mall, a white conversion van is backed up to a large carnival-like tent and surrounded by yellow caution tape.


A portion of the nose of the Tiger Spot mosaic, shown last week, reveals chunks of tile missing.(STEVE BOYLE/Missourian)

“The van is property of the artists, and the tent will be paid for by private donations for Tiger Spot,” Basi said.

Inside the tent lies about a 2-foot gap between the edge of the mosaic and the bricks that line Lowry Mall. Chunks of tile are still missing in many areas of the Tiger Spot. There is a small, plastic tarp-enclosed area within the tent on the side closest to Ellis Library. Inside are three heat lights concentrated on about a five-foot area. Basi said these are in place because some of the volunteers work at night because they have other commitments during the day.

There will be no further charges to the university concerning the project, Basi said. The lights that remain on 24 hours a day and “all expenses related to this project, except the drain, will be paid for through gifts and pledges of Tiger Spot,” Basi said.

Jackson and his team donate their time. All of the workers involved are on a volunteer basis. As a result, “there is no specific timeline on the repairs,” Basi said.

Jackson could not be reached for comment.

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