Mary Cantrell Tellez looks through a bucket for just the right ceramic piece while working on the mosaic in May 2010.
Mary Cantrell Tellez looks through a bucket for just the right ceramic piece while working on the mosaic in May 2010. (FLIPSIDE - File)

At first glance, the mosaic taking shape on a cinderblock wall in the second block of West Philadelphia Street might seem like Mary's mural.

Mary Cantrell Tellez was the one who wanted to do a nature scene on the wall.

Mary is the one who carries milk crates full of donated pottery in the back of her van.

Mary is the one out there day after day, tediously piecing tidbits of tile together.

What passersby might not see are the students from Crispus Attucks Youth Build Charter School who stop by to help assemble the scene.

They might not know that Brenda Wintermyer, whose CityArt studio gallery faces the wall, was the one who suggested covering the cinderblock with art. That Met-Ed owns the wall. That company spokesman Ernie Waters took a class from Wintermyer and gave permission for Mary to transform it.

That several individuals made private donations to pay for Mary's time and others held fundraisers for the project.

That Re-Stor-York, Lifetime Brands, Brown's Glass & Granite and other businesses donated pottery, tile and glass for the mosaic.

Even the white tent Mary puts up to shield her fair complexion from the sun is on loan from a thoughtful friend.

"This is really a community collaboration in so many ways," she said. "I think they're glad to see something interesting happening in this area."

She started the project May 5, 2010, and doesn't expect to be finished before the end of June -- later if the weather is bad.

Passersby show their approval by honking, giving Mary the thumbs up, or shouting "Nice art!" and "Thanks!" Some even stop to watch as she snips tiles, digs through plastic buckets of similarly colored pieces, slops mastic adhesive on the backs, and sticks them to the wall.

Mary started by sketching a few flowing lines, rough trees and bushes on the wall, but they're mostly just for spacing.

"It's just a design, and it will evolve," she said. "Some parts are going to be obvious what it is, but then I also like to mix in some movement."

Swirls, curves, organic, viney-looking things. A bit of abstract between the obvious to keep the viewer guessing. "That's sort of a trademark of my work," she said. "It's open to the eye of the beholder."

The mural isn't Mary's first mosaic in this part of town. She tiled the sign for Mezzogiorno restaurant in nearby Central Market and decorated the steps of CityArt studio gallery with scraps of colorful tile.

"I thought it would be pleasing to put something soft -- blues and greens and a lot of lines from nature -- in this area that has so much concrete," she said.

Wintermyer said she's excited about the wall's transformation. "I see it every day when I come to work and it makes me smile," she said. "I think it's going to uplift the whole area."