Students help community create a mural

Photo by Stephanie Mason/The Beacon

Jessica Valeria Rodriguez/Staff Writer

For the past nine months, residents of Liberty City teamed up with FIU staff and students to create a metaphoric mural, which is now illustrated on a 40-foot wall close to the Full Gospel Worship Ministry on N.W. 15th Avenue.

What was once a forgotten and faded mural of the realities of life in Liberty City by African-American heroes is now a beautiful “Tree of Life.” The new mural incorporates bright and warm colors that bring more life to the community. Since the 1960s, a lot has changed in Liberty Square; poverty, crime and a simmering rage have all slowly risen. This is the first of many steps they are taking to reconstruct this neighborhood and take it back to what it used to be.

The project grew out of the communication facilitation work that Charlene Eberly, assistant director of the Communication Arts Studio, and her colleague were doing last summer with the Liberty City Trust.

“We hosted a tour of the community and on the tour we passed the wall, which was faded and in disrepair,” said Eberly. The idea of a mural was then proposed and one of the advisory board members, Judge Raphael Steinhardt, stepped up and offered to pay for the project.

The Senior Judge of Florida, Miami native and father of a fellow Panther made a call and got the wall repaired. Then, the Art and Art History department contributed by holding a series of focus groups with the local residents and the children who use the Liberty Square Computer Center, whose wall the mural adorns.

After discussing different ideas for the mural, one child asked, “What about a tree?”

From there, the artists developed the design: the “Tree of Life.” And, like a living tree, it is designed to “grow.” Leaves can be added in endless layers so the tree just gets bigger and more colorful.

“I love that it isn’t too perfect; it has drip marks and crooked lines – like life.  You can see the hands of the artists and the non-artists. Everyone has his or her own leaf and they all have a place on the ‘Tree of Life,’” Eberly said.

Kristy Wright, a graduate student in the Master in Global Governance program who works part time at the BBC Communication Arts Studio, really enjoyed working on the mural project.

“I had never been to Liberty City, but now I have left my mark on it,” said Wright.

The most rewarding part was working with the kids, Wright said. Their excitement from having their work permanently demonstrated in the community was beautiful to see and will be her inspiration to do something like this again.

In the future, they plan to host another painting day and get more FIU students to come out and add their leaves, as there is plenty of room. For now, the success of the mural is there to represent not only the FIU community, but also the prospect of growth and improvement in Liberty City.

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