Artist Lakeema Matthew finally began working on Oldsmar’s first public art project this week after structural issues at R.E. Olds Park led to a months-long delay.
Artist Lakeema Matthew and members of her crew began working this week on Oldsmar’s first public art project, a colorful mural that will adorn the bandshell facades at R.E. Olds Park.
It’s taken the better part of a decade for Oldsmar’s first public art project to make the transition from vision to reality, so what difference does a few more months make?
That’s the attitude former Oldsmar City Council member Linda Norris and Tampa artist Lakeema Matthew adopted after the pair learned that work on the colorful mural Matthew was commissioned to paint at R.E. Olds Park in January would be delayed indefinitely due to structural issues with the facades at the park’s bandshell.
But following an extensive repair job that involved firming up and re-coating the concrete pillars that bookend the waterfront stage, Matthew, a former USF art student who was part of a unique collaboration between the city and the school, was finally able to began working on the long-awaited project this week.
Lakeema Matthew started working on the mural on Monday.
“I’m excited to get started,” she told Oldsmar Connect on Monday afternoon.
“I’ve been keeping busy by teaching mural lessons to kids in Tampa, and I’ve been asked to paint a mural on the building over there, but I’ve been anxious to get started on this project for a while now.”
Needless to say, after many delays, Matthew isn’t the only one eager to see Oldsmar’s long awaited initial public art project start to take shape.
Norris, who during her six years on council was recognized for her commitment to this project specifically and public art in general, was overwhelmed when she realized years of false starts and major disappointments were about to be erased with a few splashes of spray paint.
(L-R) Lakeema Matthew, Toni Gross and Linda Norris at the Oldsmar mural site.
“As a lifelong art lover and after all the years it took to get this project approved, I am overcome with gratitude to see it finally start,” Norris said from the site, where she will be on hand to help Matthew throughout the process. “It goes to show that perseverance pays off.”
“These murals will bring joy to our citizens, and I would like to thank the USF Art Department, the City Council, and all those involved in making this art a reality.”
Toni Gross, an Oldsmar resident with strong ties to the project, was also present for the start of the work.
A screen shot of the mural depicting the late Army Cpl. Frank R. Gross that Tampa artist Lakeema Matthew is painting at R.E. Olds Park.
Toni and her husband, Craig’s, son, Army Spc. Frank R. Gross, is the focal point of one half of the mural, and the Gold Star Mothers of Tampa Bay chapter president said they will forever be grateful for the city’s decision to honor their late son’s memory.
“After so many years, it is a blessing to know that my community remembers their fallen, and remembers them in such a special and unique way,” Toni Gross said while snapping “before” photos.
“It’s a reflection of Oldsmar’s commitment to its veterans and active duty service members.”
“As the only known Oldsmar resident killed in action in Afghanistan, it makes it more meaningful that Frank’s memory will live on forever through this magnificent mural,” she added.
“They could’ve chosen flowers or anything for this project, but they chose to honor him, and we will forever be grateful for that.”
As she collaborated with her longtime mentor, artist and former USF professor Mike Parker, planning the initial stages of the work, Matthew said she doesn’t have a definitive date for when the project will be completed.
“I’m at the point where I don’t want to put a timeframe on it, I just want to get it done,” she said.
Lakeema Matthew is collaborating with her longtime mentor, artist and former USF professor Mike Parker, on the Oldsmar mural project.
But the outspoken artist, who is devoutly committed to her faith, she said she does have a specific timetable in mind.
“My goal is to have it done in seven weeks, because that has symbolic meaning to me,” Matthew said.
“God created the world in seven days, so I want to create this mural in seven weeks in honor of Him.”
If Mother Nature cooperates with Matthew’s timeframe, the unveiling of the mural could coincide with the city’s special centennial edition of its annual Celebrate Oldsmar! festival, scheduled for the weekend of September 2, 2016.
Look for periodic updates on the mural project on Oldsmar Connect.com.