Tampa, FL: Dawning Sun: 1820-1920

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 quality of my carved tiles means that the viewer can appreciate the work through several senses.  I love the permanence of tile too.  The mural not only relays the history, but becomes part of the history as well.  It’s an art form that we shouldn’t lose.”

  Read more about this grant and Natalie's installation     handmade, carved, ceramic tile
handmade, sgraffito-carved, ceramic wall tile by Natalie Blake

Natalie at the unveiling ceremony in Tampa, FL

              Blake-Gift-of-Gathered-Remembrances-I Each of the three murals in this installation uses the sun as its origin point out of which segments of history are depicted. In this first mural, which dates through 1917,  the sun is 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. handmade, sgraffito-carved, wall art tile by Natalie Blake This detail of the larger mural depicts early endeavors of the African-American community to establish businesses, churches and educational institutions that would be the foundation for cultural prosperity in the 1920's and beyond. The Buckingham Theater Saloon was owned by Pat Chappelle in 1900, one of many prospering African Americans around the turn of the century.  The glowing church is the African Methodist Episcopal Church, to this day an important part of African American Tampa community. The crops growing over the horizon line symbolize emancipated farmers of the mid 1800’s who began succeeding in agriculture and, sometimes, surpassing their white neighbors in abundance in the fields.   handmade, carved, ceramic wall art tile by Natalie Blake   The wind of change ‘goddess’ appears from the upper right hand corner, blowing the Negro National Anthem song written by James Weldon Johnson. The Tampa City Hall , built in 1915, opens up in the inner halls to a group of five men-- three black and two white-- who were elected and served on the county commission. After congressional enactment of Military Reconstruction beginning in 1867, Federal law first permitted Blacks to vote during constitutional convention elections held in late 1867. Florida’s new constitution of 1868 granted suffrage rights to adult, male Blacks.  For a time in 1871-1872 Blacks comprised the commission majority. handmade, sgraffito-carved, ceramic wall art tile by Natalie Blake   Here is a video clip of the unveiling of the murals: Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 4.06.50 PM          
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