Musings on our Tampa public art grant…

  Natalie writes:   Coming to work and seeing Elliot mixing mortar to thin-set the backs of our 18" x 18", like we are really about to install these murals for the community to see in Tampa, Florida!
mortaring the backs of handmade, ceramic tile

We apply mortar to the backs of the undulating tiles to create a level surface for thin setting the tiles to the walls

  I am honored to have been chosen to create three large, 15' x 6' murals for the City of Tampa's Trio at Encore development project.  It's been an amazing year researching the history of the largely Black neighborhood of Central Avenue in Tampa, where the murals will hang, and then designing and carving the murals.  The murals depict historical scenes from this neighborhood, like in the mural details seen below-- of Ray Charles at the piano, and musicians at the Blue Room night club. This neighborhood was  a "hoppin'" music district in the early 1900's.  It is said that many people including B.B. King, Cab Calloway, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, James Brown, Ruth Brown, Asa Harris, and others played up and down Central – it was the place to be. I've titled this installation "The Gift of Gathered Remembrances".  The title of the piece is inspired by Secrets of the Talking Jaguar by Martin Prechtel, who recounts a people who are deeply secure in their cultural identity because of their daily remembrance and reverence towards their ancestors. This project has been my humble attempt to gather some of this neighborhood's memories and to give them back in these 3 murals.   Capturing memories and retelling stories is a gift, for the teller, and for those who "listen".
handsculpted, carved, ceramic tile by Natalie Blake

Ray with piano, detail of larger mural

handsculpted, carved, ceramic tile by Natalie Blake

Ink Spots

Who would have thought that after years of making vessels, I would have embarked on a journey of making ceramic wall tile--and large, sgraffito-carved, tile murals, at that!   I don't consider myself a drawer, not even a carver, but somehow I have found myself doing a lot of that, albeit on my favorite medium: clay.  I'm thrilled to be creating beauty for people to hold onto. What's incredible about this particular journey of gathering the remembrances of a people together, is that I get to make beauty that is for not only a wider audience, but a specific community, one that has struggled, overcome, undaunted, blossomed and survived.
Now, on to loading another kiln with tiles……….we begin installing next week!
Natalie Blake loading a kiln with handmade, ceramic art tile

Natalie loading the Tampa tiles into the glaze kiln

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2 Responses to “Musings on our Tampa public art grant…”

  1. Lorna Benton April 24, 2014 at 3:07 pm #246078

    These murals are too magnificent to begin to describe, and now I know why……they are full of HEART!

  2. Rich Holschuh April 25, 2014 at 7:12 am #246637

    Super project – thanks for showing me the other day Nat! And great blog post – keep it up!

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