St. Pete Will Pay $10,000 for a Mural Artist
By JON WILSON, Consulting Editor, TB Reporter
The job: Restore a City Hall blank space where a disrespectful mural was torn down nearly 50 years ago.
ST. PETERSBURG — In December 1966, an African American activist tore down a City Hall mural deemed offensive. He carried it down Central Avenue as a group of friends flanked him and police chased. Omali Yeshitela — who changed his name from Joseph Waller — eventually spent more than two years in jail for the act.
The space occupied by the pre-World War II mural, one of two painted above a stairway landing by artist George Snow Hill, has remained empty. A few proposals to replace it have come and gone for nearly a half-century. Officials were reluctant to pursue an issue seen as likely to provoke civic heat. The mural torn down depicted stereotyped caricatures of African American musicians entertaining white people at a picnic.
But now something new will go on the blank spot. The city will pay $10,000 to the mural artist chosen to create a new piece of art in the 7-by-10-foot space. The call is open to all students and artists internationally.
Here’s how the city’s website describes what it wants:
“The Project Committee seeks art that will respect the history of the events surrounding the tearing down of the original mural and that will celebrate a city of opportunity for all. It should be noted that the individual, Joe Waller, who tore down the mural because he felt it was racist, spent many months in jail for the act. He was vice chairman at the time of the state’s Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. (SNCC). This is a historically significant event in the history of the City of St. Petersburg.
“The art must respect the event(s) that caused the still-vacant space where the mural once hung while honoring and celebrating the advances in civil rights and inclusivity in the city today. The original murals, of which one survives and is in its original location, were . . . commissioned in 1940.”
Deadline to apply is Feb. 8. For information, visit http://bit.ly/1K41uy9 .
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