Rain damage and sun stain could not keep a mural at the Gibson-Bethel Community Center from becoming beautiful.
But enlisting international influence truly made it gorgeous.
More than 50 people stood armed with brushes and paint on the north side of the building Tuesday, Aug. 2.
ArtSouth, a not-for-profit organization, invited Miami Dade College, Global Ties Miami, and a group of dignitaries from the United Kingdom to complete the mural. The project included youth from South Miami Parks and Recreation, local artists, professionals and community leaders.
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“It means a lot to have them here to get the kids involved with something like this that they are going to see for the rest of their life and then one day they can bring their kids back and their kids can see what they did to try to make south Miami, cleaner, better, and beautify it,” said Lorraine Council, South Miami CRA property management coordinator.
“It helps [local children] and lets them know that people from around the world can come to where we live, in this poor area, and shows them that you can travel around the world and do the same. You can get involved in anything. You don’t just have to stay in this community and not do anything.”
Baptist South worked on the original project in November, before being halted by bad weather. Kelly Hounshell, a member of the Miccosukee reservation, created the original design for the wall while attending Riviera Preparatory School.
The Global Ties Miami participants included Surga Alibhai, an assistant principal at Isaac Newton Academy; Saeed Atcha, chief executive of Xplode Magazine; Charlotte Govan, team leader, character division, Department of Education; Mandy MacKenzie, senior policy advisor, Cabinet Office; Rania Marandos, deputy CEO, Step Up to Serve; Lindsay Marsden, policy and learning manager, Big Lottery Fund; Bridget McGing, deputy director, Pears Foundation; Aimee Presly, business manager, TeamLondon; and Katerina Rudiger, chief community officer, CIPD.
“I think it’s incredibly important to show the people of Miami that they have international support,” Atcha said. “I think this particular project is really important to show the international relations, but also to help them out. If we weren’t here today, who would be doing this job and getting it done as quickly as these people are getting it done.”
Presly works with a team of 50 under London Mayor Sadiq Khan through municipal projects and volunteering. The group works in all 32 boroughs of London.
“I think for me, with the people we have met within our UK-based group, is that it’s sectors that you don’t always get to speak about and actually we can’t make impact in silos,” Presly said. “So to be able to travel with people who fund the charities and governments, we have government officials here who feed into the department of education, and we have those conversations really open and honestly about how we as a collective can make change. It’s very powerful.
“What’s great about projects like this is to take it back to the people who gain from whatever we gain for when we go back to UK. I think it’s really important because whenever you go back to the organization, is that you think the policy side and the budget. I think what happens when you do this and ask what happens when you just paint a wall? It impacts the whole community. This connection is about us going: Who really benefits from it? So we can make sure we are a bit more practical about the support that we offer.”
Global Ties Miami is supported by the Embassy London Public Affairs Office, and supports the travel of 10 British professionals and community leaders specializing in the promotion of volunteerism and social action. The program’s participants use Step Up to Serve and the #iwill campaign to embed social action into the lives of young people. The #iwill campaign’s goal is to increase participation in social action from 40 percent to 60 percent, in 10 to 20-year-olds by 2020.
“For the program itself and the Miami community it’s great, because its opening up your community to the rest of the world and kind of bridging those connections,” said Cassandra McGuiness, who works with the U.S. State Department. She was contracted as a liaison to accompany the delegation.
ArtSouth uses exhibitions, performances, and educational programs to benefit communities by providing a centralized public cultural arts venue that fosters the creation, understanding, appreciation, and enjoyment of the arts.
Alex Cedano came to ArtSouth after being released from his home school and going to McArthur Young Men’s Academy. He helped teach art to handicapped children through ArtSouth, earned a job at Schnebly Redland’s Winery, and enrollment at Miami-Dade College.
“I think it’s cool because with all that is going right now with people not getting along, with a variety of cultures, it shows that everybody can get along and hang out together and put something together like this,” Cedano said.
ArtSouth employed famed artist Maximo Caminero to aid the artists. After refurbishing the original artwork, Caminero polished it off with flair.
“It is important to show art any place,” Caminero said. “The art inspires people. We are all inspired by what we see in our common life. If you see sad people somewhere, it comes to you too. Through our art, showing happiness or make people think we help. It doesn’t matter where. In all those areas where there are poor people or violence, if they can bring art there then maybe we can change the mentality of other people.”