For Turbado Marabou, the power of the mural lies in the connection it makes with its community.
Marabou is just one of 26 regional and international artists working to connect with the community by painting murals around Gainesville through the 352Walls project.
“You want to give them a sense that this is mine,” he said. “My community is just as worthy as any other. This is what makes my community unique.”
The Gainesville Urban Art Initiative has a goal to “position Gainesville as a cultural destination in future years, foster economic development and promote urban renewal,” according to a press release.
Marabou and 12 other regional artists are participating in the first phase of the project, where 10 murals will be painted on the side of the new Make.Work facility in the former Discount Hi-Fi building at 722 S. Main St.
The first phase began on Oct. 30 and will conclude Nov. 12.
During that time, artists can come out to work on their murals whenever they want.
The second phase brings in international muralists from Nov. 16 to Nov. 25 to paint on 10 different buildings such as the Top, High Dive, Loosey’s and more, according to Iryna Kanishcheva, the project’s curator and founder.
Kanishcheva, also the official photographer for the project, developed the idea based on her experience living in Europe and throughout the United States. Initially, she said she thought that Gainesville was too small of a city and the idea wouldn’t take hold.
But after seeing similar projects in Hollywood, Sarasota and St. Petersburg, Florida, Kanishcheva told herself that size didn’t matter and presented her ideas to the city.
The City of Gainesville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department is functioning as the project coordinator, in conjunction with Kanishcheva, said Russell Etling, the department’s cultural affairs manager.
“This is a really interesting example of citizen initiative that was in the right place at the right time and brought together a number of different entities to make it a reality,” Etling said.
As curator, Kanishcheva was in charge of selecting the buildings and artists for the murals.
She contacted specific building owners to ask permission to paint their walls.
Etling said that the buildings’ owners were very receptive to the project as a way to brand their own buildings.
The artists were chosen based on experience and different styles of painting. These artists, Kanishcheva said, work with stencils, spray paint, brushes, abstract styles, classical styles and even pieces of cloth when creating their murals.
The 10 murals at the Make.Work building combine different mediums and color schemes of art. Kanishcheva said she organized the murals in a general color scheme, starting with dark, monochromatic pieces that developed into bright, colorful murals.
In the case of regional artists, she selected artists who both had and hadn’t previously worked with murals. She said she wanted to give these artists a chance to showcase their talents, as they may not otherwise have the chance in this capacity.
“We wanted to find some new talented artists in Gainesville who probably could represent Gainesville in the international urban arts in the future,” she said.
Carrie Wachter Martinez is one of the artists who is new to mural painting. Recently, she started painting murals on her own building, Visionary Crossfit. She and her husband, Jesus Martinez, developed the business as both a gym and an art gallery.
Her work on Discount Hi-Fi is the largest mural in her career so far. Her husband is helping her with the piece.
“I’m just absolutely in love with it,” she said. “Because the connection it gives you with the public, with the community, it really brings people together in a way that you don’t see art does otherwise.”
Her mural features a woman holding a moon surrounded by other celestial bodies. Wachter Martinez said her work often features celestial objects like planets and stars.
“I really try with my art to connect people to see the beauty in nature, see the beauty in each other and uplift them as much as I can,” she said. “I feel like celestial objects are almost the most humbling things out there.”
On the other side of the spectrum, Marabou is well-versed in mural painting. He developed his expertise with murals in Chicago, painting walls throughout the city, including a mural that was up from about 1994 to 2007 or 2008. This is the first full-scale mural Marabou is painting in Gainesville.
His theme features women focusing in on the power of women, historically and spiritually.
Marabou said he likes to call his art “surr-regionalism.”
“It’s a combination between psychological aspects of surrealism and then regionalism —using the elements around you,” he said.
Marabou said that no matter the mythology or metaphysics he uses in his art, he will incorporate local elements like foliage and vegetation from that community so that people can connect more with his art.
He also said he hopes that the murals will stay up for a while within the city and won’t be subject to vandalism or graffiti.
“We’re hoping that we’ll take it to another level,” he said.
Marabou said that by having a strong visual vocabulary, the emotional development of the community will increase and that they will be engaged to grow through the mural.
“You have to do something to engage people’s mind and expand out that thought,” he said.
“Push the envelope, push the politics and push people’s minds so that they feel like they can give themselves permission to grow themselves.”