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A Kodak mosaic hidden behind drywall for decades is uncovered 

click to enlarge Derek Dlugosh-Ostap, the chief executive of Delta-X Global, inspects a mosaic that was unearthed from behind a wall at a former Kodak research building that he is having rehabilitated.

PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE

Derek Dlugosh-Ostap, the chief executive of Delta-X Global, inspects a mosaic that was unearthed from behind a wall at a former Kodak research building that he is having rehabilitated.

Derek Dlugosh-Ostap wanted a wall knocked down.

The wall was stark white and had doubled as a projector screen for decades in a first-floor conference room at a former Kodak research laboratory on Lake Avenue that Dlugosh-Ostap was having rehabilitated for his company, Delta-X Global.

In its place, the chief executive envisioned a grand entryway for his company’s research and development hub, to be called Delta-X Imagine. He had it all mapped out.

Then, in February, after demolition had begun, he got a call from the rehab team. There was a problem. Was it asbestos? Was the wall load-bearing?

“It was like, ‘You’ve got to see this,’” Joe Shufelt, the facility manager, recalled saying.

Something was hidden behind the wall. It wasn’t toxic. It was art — and it was mesmerizing.


The drywall had been covering a gray cinderblock wall, about 12 feet high and 18 feet long, adorned by an elaborate mosaic composed of tens of thousands of hand-cut tiles, most measuring about one square inch. Others were as small as the pips on a pair of dice.

Gradations of blue danced with specks of black, and diminutively detailed dots of yellow and red, against a backdrop of white.

Together they formed . . . something. A submarine? A rocket? A fish? A submarine rocket fish?

No one who has seen the work since the drywall and studs concealing it were peeled back like layers of earth at an archaeological dig seems to be able to pinpoint what it is.

When a photo of the mosaic was posted on Twitter, one commenter called it “the marriage of whimsy and physics.”

What is known is that the design appears to incorporate fundamental elements of science that make photography and film possible — the symbols for silver (Ag), nitrogen (N), carbon (C), and oxygen (O) are all present. Frames of film, a flash of light, and lenses also appear to be depicted.

“The mosaic shows the areas of science, chemistry, electricity, physics, and optics,” Dlugosh-Ostap said. “All of those elements combined together were meant to express the work that was being done in this building in the ’60s when it first opened.”

click to enlarge The mosaic appears to incorporate fundamental elements of science that make photography and film possible — the symbols for silver (Ag), nitrogen (N), Carbon (C), and Oxygen (O) are all present. - PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE
  • PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE
  • The mosaic appears to incorporate fundamental elements of science that make photography and film possible — the symbols for silver (Ag), nitrogen (N), Carbon (C), and Oxygen (O) are all present.

The building, an extension of Kodak Research Laboratories that was reportedly to be devoted to physics research, opened in April 1961 and was known as B-81.

The opening was chronicled by the Democrat and Chronicle in a brief story that was illustrated with a photo of two men, Cyril Staud, the vice president for research at Kodak, and Julian Webb, the head of physics research, standing before the mosaic.

“An eye-catching mural is a symbolic key to the new seven-story physics building of Kodak Research Laboratories,” the article began.

“The mural, a mosaic of white, blue, red and yellow tiles, is set in a wall in the lobby of the newly completed building,” the story went on. “Depicted in the mural are the symbols of sound, mechanics, atomic structure, optics, electronics, electrical energy and photography.”

The article made no mention of an artist or designer.

The Democrat and Chronicle's coverage of the opening of the Kodak research building on May 19, 1961, reference the mosaic and showed two research executives standing in front of it.
  • The Democrat and Chronicle's coverage of the opening of the Kodak research building on May 19, 1961, reference the mosaic and showed two research executives standing in front of it.
Dlugosh-Ostap recalled driving to Rochester from his offices in Toronto to see the work in person and being struck by its craftsmanship.

“I was intrigued by the level of detail,” Dlugosh-Ostap said. “But the second part that really intrigued me was the message behind it. That’s when we made a decision that this needs to be kept.

“This mural represents the past, the present, and the future of Delta-X Imagine.”
Dlugosh-Ostap said architects are now working to redesign his plans for a lobby around the mosaic or devise ways to transport the art to another part of the building.
click to enlarge Delta-X CEO Derek Dlugosh-Ostap remarks on the craftsmanship of a mosaic that was unearthed at a former Kodak research building he is rehabilitating. He said he plans to preserve the mural. - PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE
  • PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE
  • Delta-X CEO Derek Dlugosh-Ostap remarks on the craftsmanship of a mosaic that was unearthed at a former Kodak research building he is rehabilitating. He said he plans to preserve the mural.
Delta-X, a Canadian firm that specializes in industrial and digital automation, printing, security, and encryption platforms, has committed to investing $25 million into the building, from its purchase through rehabilitation.

Dlugosh-Ostap said his goal is to attract companies to start up or relocate there by offering them state-of-the-art facilities and access to labor coming out of the University of Rochester and Rochester Institute of Technology. He said the building, which is 263,000 square feet, has the capacity for 250 workers.

AIM Photonics currently leases two floors there.

RELATED: Canadian company to invest $25 million in Rochester

Kodak employed more than 60,000 people in Rochester in its heyday. Few, if any, of them who are still around know why Kodak executives made the decisions they made that all but buried the company.

Why some Kodak executive decided that burying a work of art behind a layer of drywall was a good idea is anyone’s guess.
click to enlarge Delta-X employees from left, Mark Douglas, rehab project manager; Joe Shufelt, facilities manager; John Picardo, facilities engineer, and Derek Dlugosh-Ostap, the company's CEO, stand before the mural uncovered in the former Kodak building they are rehabbing. - PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE
  • PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE
  • Delta-X employees from left, Mark Douglas, rehab project manager; Joe Shufelt, facilities manager; John Picardo, facilities engineer, and Derek Dlugosh-Ostap, the company's CEO, stand before the mural uncovered in the former Kodak building they are rehabbing.
Kodak spokesperson Kurt Jaeckel called the mural “amazing” and said it had been hidden “for perhaps 50 years.”

While news reports of the building’s opening indicated the wall was part of a lobby, Shufelt, the facility manager, who has worked there for nearly 30 years, said he has only known the room as a conference room.
click to enlarge The mosaic at first glance looks like a painting. But each fleck of color was cut by hand and installed. Some flecks are as small as a pip on a die. - PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE
  • PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE
  • The mosaic at first glance looks like a painting. But each fleck of color was cut by hand and installed. Some flecks are as small as a pip on a die.
“Kodak had the greatest tile artisans,” Shufelt said. “We don’t know the designer. But I guarantee you that hand-laid tile mosaic was done by the old masons here. They were artists.

“They built these buildings, but they also had the ability to do things like this,” he went on. “It’s a lost art.”

David Andreatta is CITY's editor. He can be reached at dandreatta@rochester-citynews.com.
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