Strive for Mental Wellness
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Twelve murals throughout St. Pete have correlating virtual artistic performances attached to inspire, uplift and enlighten the community. Terry Marks, CEO of the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance, shares her thoughts on the enlightening Murals in Mind project. The Alliance, artists and mental health professionals paired the murals with performances to raise community spirits.
“I’ve always been interested in how art heals and also how to make art urgent. I woke up one morning, and just in the normal course of a day, it just felt like things weren’t quite right. Our environment where the world is right now. How people are feeling, how people are either included or not included. That was part of it,” Marks explains.
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Marks said she brainstormed the best ways to combine visual and performing art before uncovering the ideal plan to rejuvenate the murals spread throughout St. Petersburg. According to Marks, she wanted to keep the existing murals and add to their effect. To make them fresh and keep the community, and visitors, yearning for more.
Due to the accessibility of murals, anyone can experience the beauty of Murals in Mind. The St. Pete Arts Alliance worked with Matthew Walker, the CEO of PixelStix, a company that uses a QR code to transform a mural into a virtual, interactive experience. The 12 murals utilize PixelStix technology to attach a virtual artistic performance to the physical mural.
“We wanted to address multiple mental health challenges. Issues of anxiety, loneliness, stress – not that it’s therapy, but it is therapeutic,” Marks says. “We wanted to get people to be in that moment, not worrying about what’s going to happen the rest of the day, not worrying about what happened yesterday, but to be in that moment and to have a sense of nowness,” Marks continues, explaining that one of the selected murals is titled Nowness is the Portal, painted by Miss Crit and located at 3000 Central Ave. St. Pete FL 33712. The performance is by Bob Devin Jones , reading a poem by Anastasia Wirick.
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“We’re not therapists, so we reached out to Dr. Paige Dickinson,” Marks mentions. Dr. Dickinson is a tenured collegiate professor of Human Development at Eckerd College, specializing in the intersection of arts and mental health.
“She was able to identify, with our staff, 12 murals that really were life-affirming and would give someone a sense of well-being when they looked at those murals,” Marks shares.
Each of the 12 murals speaks to a different demographic and geographic location. These creations entertain “students, seniors, community people, LGBTQ+ and other demographics scattered throughout St. Petersburg.”
Showcasing Area Artists
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The Alliance’s Director of Community Advancement, Tiffany Ford, tapped into her artistic flair to pair each mural with another artistic medium.
The Blue Hour at 100 1st Ave. N, St. Pete, FL 33701 by Cecilia Lueza is the creation that jumpstarted the project, Marks told Arts Coast Magazine. The mural features a woman existing in the hours between the darkness and the sunrise. The performance is by St. Pete Poet Laureate Gloria Muñoz and musician and composer Mark Feinman.
“In that blue hour, you have a choice. You can choose something that’s life-affirming,” Marks adds.
Another mural paired with stellar talent is The Aquatic Forest. Located at 1701 1st Ave S, St Pete FL 33712, this mural by Jujmo showcases several species of vibrant sea life. Under Joel Heller’s musical direction, Perkins Elementary Center for the Arts and International Studies’ Steelpan band perform in front of the mural, while animated octopi, fish and turtles fly through the frame.
The gorgeous bright blue and pink Sunshine on My Mind at 1955 3rd Ave S, St Pete FL 33712 features interviews at a local farmers market. The Arts Alliance asked visitors what brings sunshine to their minds.
“It was so uplifting to hear, my dog, my spouse, roller skating, swimming, fishing, all these different things, and the idea is to keep reminding people about how to infuse their day with something positive in a world that has a lot of heaviness to it,” Marks beams.
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“Our ultimate goal because we trademarked ‘Murals in Mind’ is to bring it to other cities that have murals. Flint Michigan, Cincinnati, San Francisco, and we want to bring it with funding. So we’re looking for a national funder to help,” Marks says.
She speaks about the beauty of having an accessible therapeutic outlet with the click of a button.
“24/7 anybody that is having anxiety or stress, loneliness, or depression can go to one of the murals, and take the phone out and click the QR code and look at the mural and hear poetry,” Marks continues. “The beauty of Pixelstix is that we have analytics every time somebody goes to one of the murals. We know exactly how long they’ve been there and which murals they went to.”
More artists featured in this project include Jay Hoff and John Huls – Princess Smith and Shelby Ronae – Leo Gomez, Colleen Cherry and Jeremy Douglass – Brainstorm, Alexander Jones, Jeremy Carter, Talia Demps and Esophia Higgins-Wilkins – Brainstorm, St Pete Youth Farm and Keep St Pete Lit – Ya La’Ford and Helen Pruitt Wallace – Alyssa & Braden Marie and Creative Clay – Kenny Coil and Marc Berenguer, and Your Real Stories.