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Downtown Tallahassee Mural Salutes Historic Florida Women

Two women on a crane are painting a large mural of three women on the side of a building.
Tom Flanigan
Artists Olivia Barattini and Savannah Salinas soar more than a dozen feet above the sidewalk as they apply the finishing touches to their mural on the wall of the Lumen Technologies Building in downtown Tallahassee.

What had been a graffiti-stained brick wall in downtown Tallahassee has become a giant canvas to celebrate three female Floridians of note. A community recognition took place Friday, Aug. 27 for the "Project Daring" mural. Painter Olivia Barattini was the creation's primary artist. Although not really an experienced muralist, she said she jumped at the chance when she learned the Junior League of Tallahassee had such a project in mind.

"The theme of the project was surrounding 'women in Florida's history.' It was a very open-ended theme, and it was up to the artist to come up with the content. So we wanted to pick a handful of women - at first, we started with 7 - and we pared it down to 3."

The three women of Florida history to make the cut were: author Zora Neale Hurston; Betty Mae Jumper, the first woman to be chief of the Seminole Tribe; and famed environmentalist Marjorie Harris Carr. Each figure was two stories tall. And co-artist Savannah Salinas said the literal enormity of the renderings required constant checking to keep the proportions and dimensions on track.

"Even up in the sky when we're in the lift, having to make sure stuff is placed where we want it and then do it and go back and look again. I know Olivia's also been laying out in Photoshop over top of what our plans were to make sure everything was coming together as we wanted."

Not to mention the fact the weather over the past several weeks hasn't been altogether cooperative. That threw the schedule off a bit, but the recognition of the "Daring Project" went ahead as planned. Speakers, in the park in front of the nearby Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce headquarters included Junior League Immediate Past President Samantha Sexton Greer.

"A mural provided us with the opportunity to put our values: our diversity, collaboration, community, empowerment, leadership, respect and service, to work and on display."

Help also came from another former Junior League Member, Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee.

"The Junior League received a grant from the Division of Arts and Culture to support this project. And along with the County and the City, were able to work together to make it happen. And we are so proud to see public funds be put to such an extraordinary use that will benefit all who live and work in this community."

Speaking of the City of Tallahassee, Mayor John Dailey had a few words to share

"It is no secret that we in Tallahassee have a thriving arts community and it is no secret that the City and the County are huge supporters of public art."

Art that, as Downtown Improvement Authority Chief Executive Officer Elizabeth Emanuel noted, blotted out some blight.

"This wall was previously vandalized, and this was something that was never able to be properly abated that caused a lot of the downtowners to, 'make remarks.'"

Some of which could not be repeated on a family radio station. Of course, the project could not have happened without that canvas - or wall - provided by Lumen Technologies where Christie Mason is the Government Affairs director.

"We're proud to have our building serve as a canvas for the mural that reflects our values. This mural is a great example of the people, passion and history that make our community amazing."

And there's one other amazing bit of community history. The yellow brick structure on which the mural was painted actually contains the 1938-vintage building that was the hub of Tallahassee's telephone service until the construction of the much larger building next door several decades later.

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Tom Flanigan has been with WFSU News since 2006, focusing on covering local personalities, issues, and organizations. He began his broadcast career more than 30 years before that and covered news for several radio stations in Florida, Texas, and his home state of Maryland.

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