In a Fort Lauderdale neighborhood recovering from an economic slump, a little bit of color is going a long way in restoring the area’s former vibrancy.
Under Saturday’s chilly gray sky, kids and adults alike grabbed brushes and paint and went to work with two professional artists to make the Northeast/Northwest 13th Street corridor a prettier place. A third artist will add embellishments later.
“I really think it’s important, and art works to raise the level of the community and bring people together,” said Jacklyn Laflamme, a nationally known mural artist who helped organize the project.
About 30 people turned out to paint murals on two buildings that face Northeast 13th Street.
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The community art day was a collaboration of H.O.M.E.S. Inc., a housing and community development program; four neighborhood associations, Laflamme and local artist Lorraine Maxwell. Eventually, the groups hope to paint 15 or 20 murals in the neighborhood.
Earlier in the week, LaFlamme and Maxwell painted the outlines of the murals in black. One mural is a whimsical representation of Fort Lauderdale, with faces painted on each building in the skyline.
Later on, local sculpture and metalwork artist Glen Mayo will add kites, stars and flowers made of polished aluminum.
The other mural features a tree and a family.
On Saturday morning, the artists painted numbers inside the outlines to correspond with colors — two giant paint-by-number projects. Laflamme stood on a ladder to paint the top of the mural with color No. 5: bubblegum pink. The wind whipped her dark hair as she painted over years of gloominess.
The area along Northeast/Northwest 13th Street between U.S. 1 and Powerline Road had become depressed in the past 10 years, with some of the highest burglary rates in the state, South Middle River resident Pam Roloff said.
It got so bad that when Roloff went to neighborhood crime watch meetings, drug dealers would try to sell to her in the parking lot of the police station, 10 yards from where Roloff and her neighbors were trying to figure out how to run the dealers out of town.
“We all try to fight the crime together,” Roloff said. “We’ve cleaned up the area a lot.”
On the sidewalk near the murals, Lauren Erving and three of her children were improving a sculpture provided by Mayo by covering it with splashes of pastels.
Erving, who lives nearby, said the area has been on the upswing in the past couple of years as people have moved back in and opened businesses.
That’s the internal improvement, she said.
“Now the external is trying to catch up,” she said, gesturing to the colorful building behind her.
A new friend, Andrew Evangelisti, held up 4-year-old Audrey Erving so she could paint some orange squiggles on the face of the lizard-like sculpture. She signed her name in pink, which soon found its way onto her blond curls and the end of her nose.
Maxwell, whose work studio is just a block from where she was painting, said she was glad to see the community engaged in its own rebirth. She doesn’t think there will be any graffiti covering up the murals later on.
“When people have to participate,” she said, “they take care of the murals.”