A screen shot of the mural designed by Lakeema Matthew that will be painted on the bandshell at R.E. Olds Park.
A couple of weeks ago, the Oldsmar City Council unanimously approved the city’s first public art project, a colorful mural to be painted by USF artist Lakeema Matthew on the bandshell at R.E. Olds Park.
On Tuesday night, Matthew and the City agreed to the terms of the contract, and the artist is expected to begin working on the project by February 1, with an expected completion date of no later than March 15.
“I’m ready to paint!” Matthew said after the meeting.
‘Hopefully I’ll get the money soon so I can start buying the materials and equipment needed for the project, and then I can get started.”
A screen shot of the mural designed by Lakeema Matthew featuring Cpl. Frank R. Gross that will be painted on the bandshell at R.E. Olds Park.
One of the more dynamic elements of Matthew’s design is the powerful depiction of one of Oldsmar’s favorite sons, Army Cpl. Frank R. Gross, who was killed in action in Afghanistan in July 2011.
At the conclusion of Tuesday’s meeting, Cpl. Gross’ mother, Toni Gross, hugged Matthew, and she spoke about the meaning behind the recognition.
“Seeing that brought me comfort and joy,” Gross told Oldsmar Connect.
“It is very personal to me because the silhouette image was a self portrait Frank took on a surfing trip in Puerto Rico. Having a degree in digital design, he altered it to include the branches and the birds. It was his very favorite surf spot and one of the last places he visited before he died.”
Gross went on to explain that the image of the soldier in the center of the design is from a photo of Frank in basic training.
She said Matthew’s inclusion of both images, set against the backdrop of Oldsmar’s Veteran’s Memorial Park, make the mural special work of art.
“It’s personal, it’s comforting, and it’s beautiful,” Gross, who serves as the chapter president of the American Gold Star Mothers of Tampa Bay organization, said. “The colors are vibrant and alive. To me, it’s a beautiful work of art.”
Toni Gross was also quick to praise city officials for recognizing veterans.
Toni Gross and Lakeema Matthew at the Oldsmar City Council meeting on Jan. 19, 2016.
“The City of Oldsmar could’ve chosen anything for this project,” she said. “For them to choose to honor a young soldier tells me they fully support and honor America’s veterans. It’s an honor, and it’s also very humbling, too.”
According to Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis, the decision to honor veterans in the city’s first mural was a natural one.
“I think the cultural art project the city just approved captures two things that the city embraces: our veterans and our history,” Mayor Bevis told Oldsmar Connect.
“To have the veterans memorial wall and Corporal Frank Gross on the one mural is very touching and a reminder of why we have our freedom, and it is something that will be showcased at every event we have at the park.”
For her part, Matthew said she is thrilled be part of what is a historic project, for many reasons.
“This is really exciting,” she said. “Not only to be creating history in Oldsmar, but this project is going to change the course of my life.”