Project PRIDE SRQ has finished a rainbow street mural in downtown Sarasota after a year of preparation.
It’s been a week of work, and Joey Salamon continues to paint a rainbow on Second Street. The mix of colors and grid shapes extends from one part of the road to the next, but the ground view doesn't show everything. The real shape is revealed from above — the mural connects the five-corner intersection of Cocoanut Avenue, North Pineapple Avenue and Second Street.
Project PRIDE board member Arthur Boyce, for his part, sits in the shade and greets curious onlookers as they walk up. They ask what it’s for, and the Boyce cheerily tells them it’s a new street art installation put together by the Project PRIDE SRQ organization.
It’s a small moment of cheer for locals, but quite a big deal for 70-year-old Boyce. The New York native, who visited his grandparents in Sarasota in the 1970s and moved here in the mid-2000s, said he would have never imagined seeing the kind of support for the LGBTQ community that he sees now.
“I’ve been gay since I was 21,” he said. “You’d never have envisioned it, someone from my generation, to see this smack dab in the middle of the city. It’s a really big deal.”
It’s his hope other members of Sarasota’s LGBTQ community can now share in his joy. After a year of planning and a week of painting, staff members and Sarasota residents cut the ribbon on April 11.
“Looking at it makes people happy,” Boyce said. “It’s a bright and visible thing … we wanted to let the community know we’re here.”
Project PRIDE SRQ was established to, in Boyce’s eyes, bring Sarasota’s large-but-fragmented LGBTQ community together. The organization’s street mural project has been part of a visibility campaign for better representation in the Sarasota community.
“With the pandemic, we couldn’t do any kind of immediate outreach to people,” Boyce said. “This is a way of reaching out to everybody without having to personally interact … almost everyone can find something in this particular mural that represents something about them.”
The mural has more than just colors representing LBGTQ people. The sprawling rainbow assortment also includes colors for the Black and Hispanic community and the pink color for the transgender community.
Work on the design started when Project PRIDE Co-founder Katie McCurry connected with Joey Salamon, a Detroit mural artist known for creating one of the largest rainbow murals in the country in Michigan. He was brought in to plan out the street art, but the artistic endeavor was far from a solo effort. Salamon had more than 20 volunteers with him through Project PRIDE helping paint the mural each morning and afternoon, including former Gov. Charlie Crist.
“The only thing we told them is ‘If you can paint in between the lines and not drop paint, you’re all good,” Salamon said.
Boyce said the group has been hard at work getting permits with the city, passing evaluations, figuring out traffic and sanitation departments, when to close off streets and more.
Project PRIDE SRQ has marked the evolution of the project with photos taken by drone overhead. The mural was finished slightly ahead of the April 11 ribbon cutting, which had Sarasota government figures speaking to a gathered crowd beneath a tent in the rain.
“I look around at the colors and shapes and the different patterns and it reminds me of our own community,” Commissioner Jen Ahearn-Koch said. “We’re all individual shapes, patterns and colors but together we make a beautiful tapestry of art … this is the bedrock of who we are as a community."
The entire project has been emotional for Jordan Letschert, board president of Project PRIDE SRQ, but he’s particularly happy to see Sarasota city leaders engage with the project directly and attend the ribbon cutting.
“It’s one thing to say you’re an accepting and vibrant city, it’s another to have a massive inclusive mural in the arts district of Sarasota,” Letschert said.,
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