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Painting History: Richie Brasil honors Rosemary history

The graffiti artists pays tribute to local Seminole history with mural.

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  • | 6:00 a.m. August 31, 2016
Brasil finds a personal connection in telling the history of the Seminole Indians native to Sarasota.
Brasil finds a personal connection in telling the history of the Seminole Indians native to Sarasota.
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Two stories above the sidewalk at 650 Central Ave., Richie Brasil leans out of the basket of a telescoping boom lift. He’s hard at work in the morning heat,  squinting as he focuses on the job where he’ll spend the next weeks.

In lieu of a hard hat and tool belt, he’s outfitted with boxes of spray paint cans — and knowledge of the indigenous people who once lived in this area.

The graffiti artist and Brockton, Mass. native is about one week into painting a mural on the side of the Rosemary District building. In it, five large figures tower over the street corner.

Richie Brasil uses a boom lift to add pastel flair to the mural.
Richie Brasil uses a boom lift to add pastel flair to the mural.

Brasil adds a touch of pastel flair to one of the figures, lowers the boom and steps back to look at his work from the ground. It’s a mix of figure drawing, graffiti and storytelling, and it’s all Brasil.

“I’ve been dying to do these weird pastels,” he says with a laugh. “It’s breaking the rules a little bit, but that’s OK. I love that color blocking. You have to listen to the wall when you paint — listen to what it’s telling you.”

The mural pays homage to the history of the neighborhood and the people indigenous to it. Brasil says it’s important to honor the people who were here first and remind others of their cultural significance and sacrifices.

“I wanted to paint a part of history,” he says. “To tell the story of the people who were here first.”

Lewie Bloom and Mitch Racoosin are developers who co-own  the building and Rosemary District Ventures LLC. Bloom says they commissioned the art not only as a way to liven up the neighborhood, but also to celebrate its history in a meaningful way.

He learned of Brasil after seeing his work at a nearby local gallery, including a recent piece, in which he modified a series of racially insensitive antique postcards. Bloom decided he was the perfect man for the job.

The three spent six months working together on concepts, research and sketches. After completing this mural, which Brasil expects to take about a month, he plans to add another nearby, detailing the neighborhood’s African American history.

“Richie is a wonderful guy and a creative artist,” says Bloom. “If there’s something that’s wrong, he wants to use his art to make it right. I respect that. When you think of the people who were kicked out of this land and where they are now, a mural like this can serve as an important reminder.”

Brasil agrees. In a time when racial tensions have been high across the country, he sees dialogue as a necessity. And for him, art is the natural way to start it.

“I feel it’s my obligation to do this for my generation,” he says. “They talk about history repeating itself without education. It’s good to start a conversation and learn from different age groups and different cultures. That diversity  keeps us sharp. It keeps us growing.”

A previous version of this article incorrectly listed Brasil as from Baltimore.


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