Artists use Shops at Sunset Place in South Miami as giant canvas

Amanda Muñoz, 18, paints a column at the Shops at Sunset Place in South Miami.
Amanda Muñoz, 18, paints a column at the Shops at Sunset Place in South Miami. Photo provided to the Miami Herald

Vibrant visions of Florida flora and fauna flood the walls of the Shops at Sunset Place, courtesy of students from South Miami Senior High Magnet School of the Arts and a talented University of Miami graduate student.

Amanda Muñoz, Yesenia Padron, Marya Ona, and Brenda Rodriguez, newly graduated from South Miami, were chosen for the project at the end of the 2015-16 school year, when they were seniors. All four were members of the National Honor Society.

Grad student Izia Lindsay completed 35 hours of work on seven murals over the course of a week. Lindsay painted more than 2,000 square feet of surface area. His work converted structural columns at the Sunset Drive entry plaza into a canvas for abstract landscapes of South Florida’s native wildlife.

Lindsay created the work of art using only paint sprayed from aerosol cans.

The four high school grads continue to transform columns in the Sunset Place grotto and expect to finish this month.

“Sunset Place staff have been very supportive and accommodating, and mall patrons seem to be drawn to the space to observe the progress of the pieces,” said Lizzie Hunter, the students’ fine art instructor. “Overall, this has been a very positive experience and a great way to promote our art programs at South Miami Senior High School.”

Muñoz, who was born in Cuba and lived in Spain, moved to Miami at age 10. She used house paints and big brushes to incorporate her personal journey into her work.

“I mainly worked on my own column, which depicts a blazing solar system in the style of art nouveau,” Muñoz said. “Growing up, the massiveness of space was somehow simultaneously incomprehensible and yet so rich with wonder. I quickly fell in love with the subject and the nouveau movement, and I incorporate them in many of my ideas, so this was my way of leaving a personal mark on the space.”

Padron’s piece details a sun transforming into a colorful waterfall, surrounded by geometric shapes.

“There is no singular meaning behind my art,” Padron said. “I like my art to speak for itself and to resonate with each person viewing it in a different way that’s intimate to them. I think that really amplifies a sense of community but also doesn’t take away from each individual’s unique sense of self.”

The students stood on ladders, swiping high and low with their brushes, bringing life to the walls of the shopping center as onlookers gasped with appreciation.

“The feedback from the public has been great and very welcoming,” Padron said. “Groups of kids from summer camps would walk by and shout things like, ‘Wow, that’s looking awesome!’ and ‘Now that’s a real artist!’ Even random pedestrians would stop in awe and compliment my hard work.”

The Shops at Sunset Place has had a busy summer schedule, with a farmers market continuing every Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. A back-to-school send-off is planned Aug. 6 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and will be a tax-free weekend, saving money on back-to-school supplies. Visitors also have a first hour free in the parking garage from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Guests get a 50 percent discount on their first two hours of parking on weekends.

On April 1, the mall implemented a supervision policy stating that visitors 17 and under must be accompanied by an adult after 9 p.m. Adult supervisors must be at least 21.

Lindsay’s colorful columns were completed in mid-July, but he will continue to work with the Shops at Sunset Place on future projects.

“During the time I spent working on the murals, I was continuously being greeted by members of the community who fully embraced the project,” Lindsay said. “The positive feedback has been overwhelming and the community has expressed their eagerness to see more, which made the experience that much more meaningful.”

The Trinidad native said he chose his theme based on a desire to form a connection with the viewers of his works. Lindsay also has paintings throughout Wynwood, Trinidad, Barbados, Curacao, and Suriname.

“I chose a bold, vibrant color palette that adds life and movement to the architecture, allowing viewers to be engulfed in the flora and fauna of South Florida,” Lindsay said.

“Art has an incredible power to affect space, and my goal as an artist is to subconsciously connect with people and positively influence their emotions. With this project specifically, the imagery chosen is intended to direct individuals to stop and appreciate the beauty of nature.”