Do you have a family crest? Is there a pattern, like an African kente or Scottish tartan that illustrates your heritage? Is there an icon or symbol that represents you or your culture?
If so, you have an opportunity to see it included in the design for a new mural being developed for City Gym in New Smyrna Beach.
“The purpose of this mural is to create a piece of artwork that illustrates a unique and meaningful display of culture and heritage,” said Irma Terry, New Smyrna Beach community resource coordinator, during a collaborative workshop designed to gather ideas for the mural project.
The workshop, which attracted several dozen participants from the community, was Sept. 8 at the Babe James Community Center at 201 N. Myrtle Ave. It was organized and led by the city and Atlantic Center for the Arts.
Eve Payor, ACA director of community programs, presented workshop participants with an outline for the mural, which features a woman described as a “mother figure” with flowing hair walking forward while a colorful robe billows behind her. The robe, which makes up the majority of the mural, will serve as the canvas on which community contributions are placed.
Ms. Payor described the mural design as a “quilt of the community” to which everyone is invited to contribute a patch. “This is a celebration of different cultures that make New Smyrna Beach home,” she said. “It’s a visual representation of unity in diversity.”
ACA, which is assisting the community with the mural project, conducted two previous workshops with youth from the community. One involved youth at the Boys and Girls Club of Southeast Volusia County and one involved youth participating in summer camp programs at the community center.
Ms. Payor stated the children involved “loved telling us what family and community mean to them.” Their contributions, which were shared with attendees at the adult workshop, represented love, laughter, family and kindness.
Attendees at the adult workshops were encouraged to use supplies provided by ACA to sketch patches that would illustrate their family, heritage, culture or values. ACA artists would then work to incorporate the images in the final design.
“I thought it would be good to have some input and see exactly what they had in mind,” said Mildred White, a former New Smyrna Beach math teacher who attended the meeting to learn more about the project. “I’m here for information’s sake. I like to make certain I get information from the horse’s mouth so I know exactly what is going on.”
Ms. White brought a collection of fabrics bearing African patterns to submit to the artists for consideration.
Shy Morris, one of the ACA Community Artists who assisted in leading the workshop, said, “I enjoy bringing the community together where you get to learn about so many different people and their backgrounds and help build friendships.”
Ms. Morris believes the mural project will help to grow the community’s appreciation for art. “I’m excited about art in public space because it gives the majority of the community the ability to experience art, especially the younger generation,” she said. “It’s taking art to where the people are and that’s where we need it because art is always healing.”
The next collaborative workshop on the City Gym mural will be at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 22, at the Coronado Civic Center at 150 N. Pine St.
Community members who are not able to attend a workshop can contribute ideas by emailing them to email@example.com. The deadline for submissions is Oct. 1. The painting of the mural is slated to begin by the end of October and is expected to take three months to complete.
Developing a mural for City Gym was suggested in a memo presented by the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency staff during a CRA meeting June 22. The memo presented plans to revitalize the current mural under the Martin Luther King Jr. Bridge in New Smyrna Beach with a project that would illustrate “diversity and inclusion.”
Mayor Russ Owen expressed concern during the June 22 meeting regarding the MLK Jr. Bridge mural project, saying he’d prefer the city add new murals in addition to updating those that already exist. “I was more excited about some of the other locations that I would call a blank canvas like the City Gym or Coronado Civic Center,” Mayor Owen said.
According to city representatives at the Sept. 8 workshop, City Commission approval will be required before the design of the City Gym mural can be finalized.