Exterior Murals in a Tampa neighborhood, 2014
handsculpted, sgraffito-carved, ceramic wall art tile by Natalie Blake

The first of three, 6′ x 15′ ceramic tile murals mortared and grouted onto concrete walls that run the perimeter of a mixed-use development in Tampa, FL. This installation was made possible through a generous public art grant awarded to the studio in 2013 by the City of Tampa, and Trio at Encore LP.  Through this grant, Natalie researched the history of this largely African-American neighborhood and then traced its 200-year history in a series of three large murals. Through interviews and consultations with several historians and community members, Natalie compiled a rich history of this incredible community. She then translated these collected stories, using a blend of abstraction and realism onto three, 6’ x15’ murals comprised of 18” square ceramic tiles.   The title of the piece, “The Gift of Gathered Remembrances,” is inspired by Secrets of the Talking Jaguar by Martin Prechtel.  In this book Prechtel recounts the story of a people who are deeply secure in their cultural identity because of their daily remembrance and reverence towards their ancestors. As Natalie says, “It is so awesome to make clay tiles.  As I move into making public art, I appreciate more and more that my ceramic tile murals can be part of the story-telling.  The tactile… Read More »

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handmade, carved, ceramic wall art tile by Natalie Blake Studios

        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. The Ink Spots, one of the many famous musician groups to light up the night downtown Central Ave at the three major night clubs/restaurants: the Blue Note, the Apollo Theatre Tampa, and the Cotton Club.  Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, the Ink Spots, Clyde McPhatter, James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald and many other legends performed in these venues. Ray Charles: In a boarding house at 813 Short Emery Street, Ray Charles made his first recording — “Found My Baby There.” Behind him is the famous Jackson House, the boarding house to all these musicians and performers and more during segregation. We don’t know what club Hank Ballard and the Midniters performed in when Hank first saw “The Twist” being danced. We do know Hank wrote “The Twist” song after seeing the dance on Central Avenue, which led to Philadelphia’s Dick… Read More »

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handmade, carved, ceramic wall art tile by Natalie Blake Studios

    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.  Click each image to enlarge. The detail below shows a row of tiny Scrub houses that are split by the straight unhindered line of a highway. This depicts I-275 which was imposed literally down the center of Central Avenue, thus creating a division through the center of the community. The imposition of the highway, the riots around Chambers’ death, the end of Segregation and Jim Crow laws, all made for a strange dissolution of the Central Avenue community. Black businesses shut down or moved to better parts of town as the lifeblood dissipated out from Central Avenue. The Scrub was torn down, and Central Park Village, built in the 70’s, became a new community for some of the African American population. Within CPV, community was strong, with women in the community sticking together to help raise each others’ children while they pursued jobs and adult education. Chinese and Hispanics were also part of the community as many worked in Ybor city… Read More »

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