Murals in Mind, a new program from St. Petersburg Arts Alliance, has launched its outdoor gallery of inspiring murals with the idea that “art connects us, heals, and shifts the way we perceive our world.” Through the collaboration of talented muralists, performing artists, literary artists, students, arts organizations, and community members, the project seeks to support and promote mental health for all.
“We picked out a grouping of murals that we felt were inspirational, motivational, upbeat, and life-affirming,” says Terry Marks, CEO of St. Petersburg Arts Alliance.
The team then worked with Dr. Paige Dickinson from Eckerd College, a psychologist trained in trauma and art therapy, to further pare down the selection to ensure there would not be any text or image that could be triggering for someone standing in front of it. Music, poetry, dance, and drama were added to the murals so that visitors can experience the merging of performance art and visual art on their smartphone or tablet through an app using Pixelstix technology. The videos can also be viewed remotely from a vehicle or from a laptop.
One of the most important aspects of the project, Terry says, is that the gallery is accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week. “If you’re having a bad day at 10 o’clock in the morning or at 10 o’clock at night, you can go out, take your phone, scan the QR code, and hopefully it shifts that moment in your day.”
But she also reminds people the murals are accessible in several ways. “We encourage people to literally go to the murals, but you don’t have to. You don’t have to walk. You can drive to a mural, download the app, and experience it right on your phone. You don’t have to get out of your car.”
With video art by Todd Burgess and Sunsation Media, the murals represent a wide range of ideas and artistic offerings. Some of the murals are calming and poignant, like “The Blue Hour,” with music, audio of a poem being recited, and still images of composer Mark Feinman, poet Gloria Muñoz, and muralist Cecilia Lueza. Others feature lively movement and action, like “Aquatic Forest,” by muralist Jujmo, which spotlights the Perkins Elementary School steelpan band performing under the direction of Joel Heller.
“We wanted to make sure that all of St. Pete was represented, that there were lots of voices—students, community members, seniors—we wanted diversity and inclusion,” says Terry. “So some of the murals absolutely had to have the video component. But the idea really is for people to stand in front of the mural and take a moment to calm themselves and interact.”
Because the murals with videos attached encourage people to look back and forth between the mural and their phone, the decision was made to limit the videos to only some of the murals.
‘The whole idea of Murals in Mind,” Terry says, “is that it’s not therapy, but it is therapeutic. Part of what I believe art does is that it gives people the ability to be in the now. When you’re listening to music, when you’re reading a book, when you’re looking at a mural, when you’re listening to a poem—you’re in that moment.”
Terry says the merging of murals with performance kind of happened organically. For instance, for the mural “Nowness is the Portal,” by muralist Miss Crit with poetry by Anastasia Wirick, the team knew that the voice of Bob Devin Jones, a performing arts leader and founder of The Studio@620, was the voice they wanted. The team also made efforts to ensure almost all of the poets and performing artists met the muralists. Cecilia Lueza, creator of “The Blue Hour,” met with Gloria Muñoz, St. Petersburg’s poet laureate, so they could talk about the visual art and the performance that would be attached to it.
Murals in Mind has been trademarked with the intention to seek funding that will help its organizers bring it to other cities with existing murals, like Cincinnati, Ohio; San Francisco, California; and Flint, Michigan. The mission would be to guide other cities in the selection of murals and performers so that if people are feeling down in their day, they can go to a Mural in Mind and it will hopefully make them feel better.
Terry says she’s amazed by the reaction and the many positive responses the project has received. “Normalizing the need for mental wellness is really important,” she says. “I can’t imagine anyone who does not know someone or who has themselves not had some kind of emotional trauma or emotional challenge. And so tying art to mental wellness makes art urgent, and it evidences another way that art contributes to our environment and to our city.”
Founded in 2012, St. Petersburg Arts Alliance is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to advocating for the arts and supporting area artists, arts organizations, and creative businesses. Learn more at https://stpeteartsalliance.org/.
Story written by Dianna Graveman exclusively for Destination Tampa Bay. Feature image above: The Blue Hour, by muralist Cecilia Lueza
Stay Informed with our Weekly Newsletter!And Win Free Tickets!
Stay Informed About Top Area Events, Entertainment and Best Dining Destinations and more. Plus automatically be enrolled into our A-List giving you a Chance to Win Free Tickets Every Week! Just fill-out the fields below.