THE GIFT OF GATHERING REMEMBRANCES
Natalie Blake, artist
Location: 1101 Ray Charles Boulevard, The Trio at ENCORE! (west facing wall overlooking historic Central Avenue)
“The Gift of Gathering Remembrances” tells a story of the formation, change and growth of a historically rich Tampa neighborhood: Central Avenue. In each panel, the artist uses the sun as its origin, to identify each era that is depicted.
Artist Natalie Blake was selected from a national call to artists to create an artwork for The Trio at ENCORE!®, a multi-family building in ENCORE!, a new mixed use neighborhood in downtown. The subject for Blake’s series is the historic African American business district known as Central Avenue and its surrounding neighborhoods. Natalie worked with the committee, researched photographic archives, and sought community input. This gave her the foundation to create “The Gift of Gathering Remembrances,” a three-panel ceramic mural.
The City of Tampa, Art Programs Division released a call to artists/request for qualifications seeking artists for a “Wall Surface at The Trio. Three (3) blank concrete walls, each 20’ long and 12’ high have been designed into the façade of a 200’ brick wall that runs around the perimeter of The Trio apartment homes. This lends an opportunity for a public art installation which will face the newly renovated Perry Harvey Park. The area will serve as a gathering place and will feature a stage to be used for local musicians, outdoor cinema, and other entertainment purposes.”
The selection committee is composed of individuals representing key areas of the project, which is based on national best practices in public art.
About the Murals
Dawning Sun Building the Bedrock of the Future Central Avenue (first panel – left)
The mural, which dates through 1917, features the sun peaking up over the horizon, bringing a sense of the beginning during a time that this African American community began to flourish in the Tampa region. Highlights in this panel includes the freedom of slaves, organizations that served as the roots of the community, the first African American Settlement also known as “the scrub”, and the formation of black businesses along Central Avenue.
Noonday Sun: Central Ave in its Heyday (second panel – middle)
This mural depicts the noon day sun at center left of the mural. Radiating outwards are many of the accomplishments, inspirations, trends created, and people in service of their community. Highlights include the vibrant scene of Central Avenue through the 1960s with imagery of the rich music scene, stylized depiction of the Central Avenue businesses, as well as an African American man casting a ballot.
Future Sun: Dissolution into Solution (third panel – right)
This panel depicts the sun rising in the sky. A grouping of hands encircles the sun representing energy transfer to, and among the community. The imagery celebrates the diversity that has made up the community after desegregation and into this century.
History feeds us all. It is the re-membering of our family, tribe, and nation. Piecing together the how and who, the why and when of what we call ‘our history’ is a precarious task. Our ancestors’ quests – sometimes grandiose, sometimes quiet butterfly wings of change – is the glue that binds the re-membering. To leave out core members, core stories, can result in distorted remembrance. However, passing on the legacy and stories of our ancestors is our duty, and though fallible, we must make the effort.
Our forbearers’ experiences and strivings make up our “cellular memory.” We plant a new seed in the fertile or desert soil of their ideas. Our street, our song, the food we eat and where we pray, all become the resonance for our children and theirs—the building blocks of cultural ‘protein’ if you will. We cannot rebuild without their failure, cannot weave our way back to their mottos without their stubborn clinging to them.
The neighborhood of Central Avenue was an incubator that set ablaze the minds and hearts of an oppressed and undaunted race. The lines of segregation, psychic and sanctioned, were drawn around this tiny community and, yet, created bonds of unity and solidarity. Deep creativity and prosperity, nurturance and care for community, emerged. May those principals carry us all into the future as we link arms and re-member ourselves into our next phase on the planet.
– Natalie Blake, artist