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How Lake Worth’s Martin Luther King mural gets worldwide attention


It’s an iconic image: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s expressive face, beaming with hope and purpose, his arm stretched above the rapt crowd at the Lincoln Memorial gathered to hear what will come to be known as his pivotal “I Have A Dream” speech.

But as reimagined by Brazilian muralist Eduardo Kobra, King is rendered in brilliant kaleidoscopic color against the black and white scene behind him, literally and emphatically setting him apart from all else. Seen on the back wall of the Lake Worth headquarters of the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County, the mural is part of the most recent CANVAS outdoor museum show.

RELATED: The Rev. King’s fight for justice in South Florida

Those in the local arts community call it a fitting tribute to the civil rights leader, who would be 88 years old on Jan. 15.

“The image Kobra painted of MLK really captures a moment in time that changed America,” says Nicole Henry, creator of CANVAS. “One of the most famous quotes in modern American history comes from (that speech). As we look back on that speech, we can say MLK would be smiling down knowing he really helped to pave the way for equality and civil rights.”

The theme for the 10 murals for this year’s CANVAS show was unity.

Rena Blades, outgoing president and CEO of the Cultural Council, says that the organization had their choice of which image to display on their headquarters, “a significant building on the landscape of Lake Worth and Palm Beach County. For such a special place, we wanted to choose a subject that represents big ideas – the ideas of heroism, the power to make positive change, and the resiliency of communities. What better figure than MLK, and what better moment than his ‘I Have A Dream speech’, to leave here as a lasting legacy?”

Kobra, a street artist whose work has appeared around the world from his native Brazil to Amsterdam and cities all over the United States, is known for his colorful photorealistic images, which include historical figures ranging from Anne Frank to David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust. His picture of Albert Einstein sitting on a beach rock is one of the most popular murals in downtown West Palm Beach, on the patio of Subculture Coffee.

Kobra, who could not be reached for comment for this story, “is a world-renowned artist who captures the personality of the historical figures he paints. He is always a crowd favorite,” Henry says.

Blades says that Kobra attracted public attention while creating the mural last year, with a “hard-working and organized” approach to the work, “sketching out individual squares first, then filling them in with carefully-planned images, to create the mural. It was wonderful to watch the mural come to life day after day.”

Although King worked hard to make a difference for the rights of African-Americans to be seen as equals in their own country, Blades acknowledges that “his impact and significance goes well beyond this nation. His life – and this moment in his life – changed the whole world.”

And the world has noticed this latest expression of that impact, says Henry.

“It was in the newspapers in Brazil. People are coming from all over the world to photograph (it). I get tagged in all the social media posts so I really get to see the image travel across the world. It is inspiring to know so many people still have a dream because of the hard work MLK was able to accomplish.”

For Blades, who steps down from the Cultural Council this month after nearly 14 years, the mural represents a culmination of “the kind of legacy I’d like to leave as I depart the Council. It’s personally thrilling to know that this monumental image will inspire everyone who passes by. It has brought the outside of the building to life. Now this wonderful historic place is an inspiration both inside and out.”



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