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This 'Moonlight' writer will tell the story of segregation walls with Miami art project

'Moonlight' playwright gets funding for Liberty City art project

"Moonlight" playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney is partnering with local artists and high school students to create an art project at the former site of the segregation wall in Liberty City.
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"Moonlight" playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney is partnering with local artists and high school students to create an art project at the former site of the segregation wall in Liberty City.

“Moonlight” playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney is continuing to leave his mark on Liberty City.

The neighborhood set the scene for the 2017 Academy Award winning film, and will now play host to an art installation that will tell the story of segregation walls in America.

McCraney and Brooklyn-based artist Chat Travieso are partnering with Arts for Learning/Miami, a nonprofit that focuses on teaching students through the arts, for the research and activism project set to be built at the former site of the segregation wall in Liberty City, on Northwest 12th Avenue between 62nd and 67th streets.

The young actor said, ‘What’s a race wall?’In that moment, Tarell realized there is a moment of opportunity here for youth to be able to name their past and name their future and make a really strong civic and social justice comment through the arts.

Sheila Womble, executive director at Arts for Learning/Miami

In the 1930s, several major cities around the country erected segregation walls to separate emerging black neighborhoods from existing white neighborhoods. Liberty City’s wall was built after the construction of Liberty Square in the mid-1930s and towered seven feet tall. It remained there through at least the 1960s, though the exact date it was demolished is unknown.

Sheila Womble, executive director at Arts for Learning/Miami, said the idea came to McCraney when he was speaking to one of the young actors during the filming of “Moonlight” about a wall he often climbed over while running away from bullies in Liberty City.

“Tarell had described this wall as a race wall. The young actor said, ‘What’s a race wall?’” Womble said in an interview. “In that moment, Tarell realized there is a moment of opportunity here for youth to be able to name their past and name their future and make a really strong civic and social justice comment through the arts.”

The project is coming to fruition thanks to grants from the Knight Arts Challenge ($80,000) and more than $300,000 from ArtPlace America.

The project is coming to fruition thanks to grants from the Knight Arts Challenge ($80,000) and more than $300,000 from ArtPlace America. Of nearly 1,000 applicants, Arts for Learning/Miami was one of only 23 that will receive funding this year — and the only one in Florida, ArtPlace America announced Tuesday.

Called Wall (In), the multi-year project will bring together 25 high school students from Liberty City to research the remains of the wall and design a memorial for the site, with guidance from McCraney and Travieso.

The project is a paid, six- to seven-week summer program that will produce an art installation by the end of the summer in 2018 and 2019.

The main thing is that work gets executed and exhibited and that the students really have a moment to be able to hold up their mirror and microphone at the same time to say, ‘This is what we want to say about the community.’

Sheila Womble, executive director at Arts for Learning/Miami

What is produced, and where — whether it’s at the site of the segregation wall or another site — will be up to the students, Womble said.

“We are more focused on the process, engaging the community, coming up with the pieces, figuring out the feasibility,” Womble said. “The main thing is that work gets executed and exhibited and that the students really have a moment to be able to hold up their mirror and microphone at the same time to say, ‘This is what we want to say about the community.’”

Chabeli Herrera: 305-376-3730, @ChabeliH

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