On Saturday, April 20, 2013 faculty and students from FIU’s College of Architecture + The Arts (CARTA) came together with the residents of Liberty Square, Liberty City’s historic public housing project and Miami Northwestern Senior High students to transform a bare concrete wall into a work of art.
Nine months in the making, the mural project was conceived when the Communication Arts Department organized a tour of Liberty City for CARTA faculty.
“We were doing communication facilitation work with the Liberty City Community Revitalization Trust and talking about the many challenges and opportunities that exist in Liberty City. I thought of all the talent in CARTA and wondered what could happen if others got involved,” said Communication Arts’ Char Eberly.
A tour, led by the Trust’s Elaine Black, was organized and faculty from Art & Art History, Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Theater, Communication Arts and the Miami Beach Urban Studio toured the neighborhood. Faculty artist Pip Brandt noted that the area lacked landmarks and points of visual beauty.
At Liberty Square, Black pointed out a 40-foot long stretch of wall with the faded remnants of a mural and mentioned her hopes for a new mural. Communication Arts advisory board member Judge Raphael Steinhardt overheard and presented a challenge: he promised to “pick up the tab” if the FIU crew took on the project.
Over the next few months, plans moved forward but stalled when it was discovered the wall needed repair work before it could be painted. Fortunately, Judge Steinhardt and friend Bob Levy, arranged for the wall to be repaired. Meanwhile, Jacek Kolasinski, chair of the Art & Art History Department met with members of the Liberty Square Residents Council and the neighborhood children to come up with a design. FIU art students Ginger Hamilton, Chioke Pope, Aurelis Pagan, and Merlin Loddi signed on, along with students from Miami Northwestern Senior High and a date was set.
Finally, painting day dawned and the volunteers gathered. The Trust and FIU’s Education Effect team provided breakfast and the paint was poured. Music played, more people came and the transformation commenced. Volunteers ranged in age from two to 72 and once the wall was primed and painted, the artists stepped in. Under the direction of FIU faculty artist Gretchen Scharnagl, Kolasinski, and the FIU Art & Art History students, the white branches of the “tree of life” design began to appear. Using sponges and wooden stencils cut by lasers, the volunteers stamped and stenciled leaves of all shapes and sizes, including an oversized shamrock in honor of the Judge’s niece, Shannon.
It took nine months and almost fifty volunteers but the project’s success can be summed up in the words of the littlest volunteer, a two-foot tall tyke in a Batman t-shirt who said: “It’s really beautiful.”
On Saturday, May 25, from 9am–12pm volunteers will gather again at 6413 NW 15th Avenue – Liberty Square to finish the mural by adding hundreds of colorful leaves to the tree.
To volunteer, RSVP to Jacqui Thompson at CARTA reception: 305 348 7500 or firstname.lastname@example.org