This isn’t just paint.
The city of Tampa is fortunate to have a Black Lives Mural in the heart of Downtown Tampa. The collaborative piece by ten African American local artists sits at the intersection of Cass and Jefferson streets, and the words “Black Lives Matter” are painted in the westbound lane of Cass street leading up to the intersection.
The mural was made possible by activists in the city in partnership with author Gloria Jean Royster, Children’s board member Timothy Bennett, and allies in the city with the Art Programs Division, City of Tampa Mobility, and the Downtown Partnership.
The artists Illsol (the owners of Mergeculture Gallery) created a new board of African American artists on June 5th, called New Roots Collective. The purpose of this board was to open up conversations of diversity within the local and global arts communities. As gallery owners, we understand the global connections and evolution within the arts – and the inherent problems that exist in the art world in terms of representation for African American artists. The board was created prior to any conversations about a Black Lives Matter mural being discussed in Tampa, and out of separate conversations about art and diversity. It just happened the timing on the conversations aligned perfectly.
Because Illsol has worked with the city, county, and many public and private entities within the city on professional art placement, the group was able to work with New Roots Art Collective to curate a list of African American Artists who are new to the process of working with the City of Tampa in public art. The project was then moved through channels of the Art Programs Division and City of Tampa Mobility to bring it to fruition, all while opening the door for many future conversations which are explained in the bullet points at end of this article.
Photos of the Tampa Black Lives Matter Street Mural
Timing & Long Term Goals:
While conversations around the Tampa Black Lives Matter street mural surfaced directly after members of our community learned about the Washington DC mural that Mayor Bowser painted leading up to the White House on June 5th, there was no location for the Tampa mural until 48 hours before it was supposed to be painted.
17 Days Packed Into 48 Hours
The project was a result of many people within the city driving the project up to Mayor Castor’s desk in 48 hours, the words “Black Lives Matter” were actually only approved by the mayor 12 hours before paint was going to hit the pavement.
We had a list of ten artists ready to work on the project, but we didn’t have a location until 48 hours prior, so it was impossible utilize the 17 days to design for a space that didn’t exist. The design came together in 48 hours, and the project was painted in 12 hours.
This project would not have been possible without the curation board: New Roots Art Collective. The Downtown Partnership was also able to fund payments for each participating artist, as well as the funding for the gallons and gallons of paint required to get the project complete. The City of Tampa’s mobility department also worked with the Hillsborough County MPO to approve the intersection for the project directly across from Perry Harvey park, and provide additional paint and supplies.
An email from Timothy Bennett, the director of the project stated:
I would like to thank the Volunteers! When we made the call asking for volunteers, you showed up ready to support.
This was a project from the heart. Everyone involved gave of their time and energy to PUSH forward the message of justice and equality.
This event would not have been possible without the support from Tampa Downtown Partnership, City of Tampa, The Planning Commission – Hillsborough County, Vision Zero Hillsborough, Safe & Sound Hillsborough Community Violence Prevention Collaborative, Children’s Board of Hillsborough County, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit, and the leaders in our community: Mayor Jane Castor, Commissioner Lesley Miller, former City Councilwomen Gwen Miller, Rashida Jones, and the best photography team in Tampa Bay, own and operated by a black woman photographer Ashley Canay.
When I brought this idea forward and called out to the Tampa Bay community for help. I was honored by the number of people who came forward and volunteered their time, ideas, and energy. Thank you to the planning committee:
Gena Torres, Danni Jorgenson, Karen Kress, Carolynn Smith-Jones, Dexter Lewis, Maria Gumina, Ashley Canay, Yvette Lewis, President of Hillsborough NAACP, Carla Williams, Freddy Barton, Lisa Silva, Beth Alden, Lorena Hardwick, Lena Petit, Carson Chambers, Rosalie Smith, Gloria Jean Royster, Lela Bennett, Allison Kummelman, Charles Smith, Colleen Smith, Stella Raines, Kari Diann, Mallory Marsland-Pettit, Jason Carrol (If I am missing anyone, please forgive me).
From Conception to Completion, this project took: 17 days!
Everyone should be very proud of themselves. Let’s keep moving the needle forward. Black Lives Matter! Keep pushing for Justice and Equality!
Art Designed by:
Melvin Halsey Jr. instagram: @lang.stn
Jaurice “IndieReece” Moore instagram: @indiereece
Briauna Walker instagram: @natural_exchange
Meclina Preistly instagram: @meclinaart
Melissa Koby: instagram: @mkoby_
Beyo instagram: @arte.gang
Mark Anthony Little instagram: @markanthony_art
Jason Henson instagram: @convounedited
Jitt Brodie instagram: @jittbrodie
Ron S. Dot instagram: @ronsdot
We would also like to thank Sun Signs, a sign painter in St. Pete for quickly lettering the Black Lives Matter letters on the street, and Customized Artistic Painting – a mural painting company in Tampa owned by artist JP Parra.
While the statement Black Lives Matter on the street is a fantastic gesture for the entire community within the city of Tampa, the statement stands for specific policy changes that will better each of the citizens in our city.
Mergeculture Gallery’s commitment to diversify the Arts: Representation Matters
The points we would like to bring to attention:
- Diversify art within public art placement in neighborhood art placement programs curated by the city and county.
- Open up conversations about budget that can shift financial priorities away from the criminal justice system to mental health and towards more neighborhood art programs.
- Create a roadmap for young and aspiring artists to understand art curation and the value in diverse arts education – and how this pertains to quality of life.
- Align diverse programs through the City of Tampa and the county with the ArtUp Org 10-year plan for economic development