FYI Community Partnership was one of 14 organizations that received a Social Justice Fund mini-grant to assist in its Murals on MLK project.
The first series of murals are in progress through the “Reclaim the Drain!” storm drain project. FYI Executive Director Maranda Douglas, who joined the organization as its leader in March 2019, conceived the two mural projects. Maranda noted that it was a 2018 Community Assessment that inspired the storm drain mural project. The assessment indicated that residents were concerned about neighborhood flooding, often related to improper drainage due to garbage and refuse in stormwater drains.
Maranda said her idea timed out perfectly with the City of Clearwater’s Storm Drain Mural Program. “It was just a happy coincidence that the City of Clearwater was also launching their Placemaking initiative, which has made our project easier to execute,” she noted. On the MyClearwater.com website, it explains, “The water that flows through Clearwater’s storm drains goes directly into the Gulf of Mexico or Tampa Bay without treatment. Therefore, messaging to prevent waste disposal in storm drains is pivotal to maintaining safe, clean oceans and beaches.”
Through the City’s project, any group — whether school, community, church, or nonprofit — can propose designs. Once the City approves the design, it will provide free traffic safety vests, traffic cones, stencils, Sherwin Williams ProPark traffic paint, paintbrushes, gloves, tarps, and additional items for the project. The City’s projects so far had mainly focused in the downtown area, but with FYI’s project spanning along MLK Jr Avenue from South Greenwood (Lake Belleview) into North Greenwood, the “Murals along MLK” project became the first to focus on beautifying and addressing water conservation in the black community.
Maranda spread the word about the storm drain murals at community events and held informational sessions, asking residents to submit ideas. Working with a handful of volunteers and ten to 15 community members — including parents and children — on Nov. 22, 2019, FYI held its first paint day, creating murals at storm drains around Belmont Park. On Dec. 28, the second paint day created murals on storm drains around the historic Plumb House Museum. Maranda scheduled two more storm drain mural paints in 2020, including the MLK Day paint, focusing on storm drains around the United Way/Police Substation at 1310 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue. There is a final paint day scheduled in February.
Maranda has continued to search for funding — while City pays for supplies, FYI covers all community presentation expenses, including advertising, refreshments, and office supplies for the nonprofit. There are also two larger projects coming up. After FYI volunteers complete the storm drain murals, Maranda is launching a “Painted Intersections” Project, which will paint a large mural on the intersection at Woodlawn Avenue and South MLK Jr. Avenue during the Spring of this year. After the intersection mural, artists will paint two more murals on buildings along MLK Jr. Avenue. However, because FYI will need to hire professional artists for these projects, it must raise funds to pay for them and additional materials.
Maranda says she learned much about the disconnection between communities and leadership. “People who live here want to be involved in change, but they haven’t been successful at creating amicable relationships with people of support,” she acknowledged. “That’s where FYI creates a bridge. We serve as someone to sort through the details, push projects along, and advocate for the community we serve.” Maranda said she was also inspired by “the resounding messages of hope, unity, and a better community that I found in the drawings from the mural meetups.” In Maranda’s view, projects such as the Murals Along MLK project are vital because it gives the community a chance to be seen.
“Oftentimes, projects like these are done in or near high traffic/tourist areas. It also gave the community a chance to be heard and be hands-on in making their requests come to life. Our goal is to be in constant contact with those who will be directly impacted by our work; this dynamic project has proven to be a great way to support all of these things.” Maranda also hopes the project will help the local artists and activists who volunteered to launch their careers and gain recognition. Two such artists who have volunteered so far are Khadija Charleston, who has been the artist bringing initial community ideas to life through her chalk outlines, and Aliyah Van Duyne, a young videographer who has been documenting the project.
Maranda invited community members to help paint the storm drains on MLK Day, Monday, Jan. 20, and share their ideas for the final paint day project design on Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day. “At both events, we have invited the potential artists for the painted intersection to come out and get acquainted with the community,” she noted. For more information, contact Maranda Douglas by phone at 727-315-3069 or by email. You can also visit them on Facebook, or visit their website.
Social Justice Fund Supports the Community
The Social Justice Fund at Pinellas Community Foundation has been a valuable resource for our community. Contact the Social Justice Fund for more information or to apply for support.