By Robert. C. Jones Jr.
A mural commissioned by the School of Architecture and the Dominican American National Foundation has transformed a bustling city corner in the heart of Miami’s Allapattah community.
MIAMI, Fla. (July 18, 2014) — When Allapattah residents met with students and faculty from the University of Miami’s School of Architecture for five days last May to hash out a plan for their community’s economic and cultural growth, they came up with ideas such as outdoor kiosks where local entrepreneurs could sell their merchandise and a beautification project to bring more public art to the area.
Now, two months after that charrette, part of the residents’ vision for their Allapattah neighborhood, also known as Little Santo Domingo because of its large Dominican population, has come true with the unveiling of a mural they hope is the first of many more.
Featuring birds and plant life native to the Dominican Republic, the mural wraps around the west and south sides of the Sarraff Store Fixtures and Equipment building on Northwest 17th Avenue and 36th Street, giving residents a taste of outdoor art in a corridor dominated by storefront businesses.
“I wanted to give this community something that reminds people of what we can do to beautify this area,” said Ariel Cruz, the artist commissioned by the School of Architecture and the Miami-based Dominican American National Foundation (DANF) to paint the mural.
“It’s our Beautiful Corner of Allapattah,” said DANF chair Rudy Duthil, referring in English to the mural’s official name of La Bella Esquina de Allapattah.
Chuck Bohl’s voice was barely audible over the roaring cars and trucks that raced through the intersection during the peak of a Friday workday when the mural debuted publicly. But the University of Miami associate professor of architecture didn’t seem to mind. After all, he was there to help show, not tell. The mural, he said, helps solidify the community’s ethnic and cultural identity.
“We were building on the concept of nurturing more of a Main Street environment—more art, more entertainment, more culture—but in an incremental way so that a lot of the little businesses can continue to thrive,” Bohl, director of the School of Architecture’s Masters in Real Estate Development and Urbanism program said of the Allapattah charrette he helped organize two months ago with assistance from UM’s Office of Civic and Community Engagement.
Other ideas that came out of that planning session, including kiosks behind grocery stores, could come later. But the effort will require working with city officials to make sure those ideas become reality, said Bohl.
“We’ve seen other areas catch fire and get the attention of developers,” explained Bohl, “so it can happen very quickly.”