We’re getting a big tattoo. A road tattoo, or street mural, that is.
The city on Monday approved a $260,000 mural by artist Steed Taylor that will stretch down Rosemary Avenue, from CityPlace to as far north as 11th Street in the Historic Northwest area.
Originally proposed by CityPlace, to link the development to Clematis Street, the Community Redevelopment Agency proposed extending the project to also lower the psychological barrier between downtown and less affluent neighborhoods north of Banyan Boulevard. Public input meetings will be held to finalize the project plans.
West Palm Beach’s Community Redevelopment Agency has been working on projects to revive the Historic Northwest, which has long struggled with poverty, drugs and street violence. The mural will be part of that effort, a way to link the two areas by helping make Rosemary a Main Street of sorts, one that draws a line from the downtown retail and entertainment venue to the neighborhood, near the revival’s soon-to-be renovated focal point, the 1930’s-era Sunset Lounge jazz club.
City officials say the road tattoo, dubbed “Genii Loci,” loosely translated as “the protective spirits of a place,” will help accomplish goals identified by urban planning consultants Gehl Studio in a 2017 study that recommended using art to create an attractive path to the Northwest and a safer crossing at Rosemary and Banyan, while also using traffic-calming measures.
The CRA would contribute $160,000 to the project, the city’s Art in Public Places program, $10,000, and CityPlace owners Related Cos. would provide $90,000. Related has been adding colorful murals to CityPlace in various spots, including on one of its garages and the former Macy’s. The road tattoo would run the length of the complex, starting at Okeechobee Boulevard and Rosemary.
Mayor Jeri Muoio questioned the wisdom of spending $160,000 on what is considered a temporary project that eventually will wear away.
“I think it’s an interesting exercise and a good use of funding,” CRA Executive Director Jon Ward replied.
According to the agenda for the CRA meeting, the road tattoo design will consist of “two color patterns of highly stylized Florida native flowers, in what the artist states is an ‘act of blooming or a period of success,’” reflecting the city’s emergence. A Celtic symbol will weave throughout the design.
The work, though painted with high gloss latex mixed with traffic paint, is considered temporary as it is expected to break down over time because of weather and cars.
“Road tattoos explore the expression of loss and longing within public space,” Steed Taylor says on his website. “Commemorative, site-specific, community-based, tattoo-inspired, public artworks on roads, they repurpose a common, yet much loved and romanticized public space with additional meaning and significance.
“If roads are the skin of a community, they have a similar relationship to the public body as skin does to the private body. As people mark their skin as a means of commemoration, communication and ritual, then a road can be marked for the same reasons.”