By Michaela Greer
Reputations are extremely important, especially for cities that wish to attract visitors. For a while, the city of Hollywood was building quite the reputation for itself—just not a very good one. Reports of a city tormented by heinous crimes and streets that were crowded by the homeless quickly spread to other cities in Florida.
Knowing something had to be done, the Hollywood Community Redevelopment Agency established a number of initiatives to help revive and improve the city’s reputation. Among them was the Downtown Hollywood Mural Project, a plan to install a collection of outdoor contemporary art pieces throughout downtown Hollywood. Executive director of the CRA, Jorge Camejo, says, “We successfully convinced city officials to allow us to do the murals, which would usually be an approval process that could be as difficult as getting an area rezoned. Once it was in our jurisdiction, the goal was to turn the urban environment of downtown Hollywood into an outdoor art gallery.”
The project started in 2012 under the supervision of Jill Weisberg, a professional graphic artist based in Hollywood. The process of finding locations was fairly simple. Weisberg either contacted or was contacted by business owners who were interested in having their exterior walls painted. Based on the design they were hoping to achieve, an artist was chosen and given a wall to beautify, often during one of the district’s ArtWalks, where people were invited to socialize and watch the artist paint.
Camejo says that the murals were strategic in reviving downtown Hollywood because it is a unique area with an exceptional artist community. A quick glance around Harrison Street, where a cluster of murals were painted, reveals that very point. For instance, just in the immediate area, a visitor can find the Hollywood Academy of the Arts and Science and the ArtsPark at Young Circle. The uniqueness of Hollywood is apparent, too, down to the infrastructure of the area. Older historical buildings stand next to modern architecture. Driving around Young Circle can feel at once romantic and otherworldly, yet oddly familiar. The murals only add to the enchantment.
The artworks themselves are captivating and seem to grab hold of viewers, each doing so differently depending on the artist’s style. 2Alas’ rendition of the Mona Lisa at 1900 Hollywood Blvd. may put the viewer in a trance, lost in the masterful application of lines, while a block away, at 2020 Harrison St., Tatiana Suarez’s mermaids seduce onlookers with the soulful eyes many a sailor has been warned of. At 117 S. 21st Ave., one can easily be swept away by the prismatic nature of Molly Rose Freeman’s piece. The list goes on and is constantly growing. “The project is ever-changing,” Weisberg says. “There is no end goal because unfortunately, murals get old and have to be retouched or redone. But it’s great because I get to work with some of the best artists, and they’re really all as unique as their contributions.”
Artists such as Jessy Nite, who completed a gorgeous 18-by-22-foot jewel-studded mural at 1901 Harrison St., are on the same page as Weisberg. Nite adds that the murals are not only unique, but are open to the viewer’s personal interpretation. “I wanted to create a colorful, impactful piece that would be special and memorable,” Nite says. “At the time, I was doing a lot of kaleidoscopic pieces, and I wanted to create something that everyone could enjoy.”
With projects like the Downtown Hollywood Murals, it’s safe to say that Hollywood is on its way to building a better reputation. And this time, the reputation will be extraordinary.
Originally appeared in the Winter 2014 issue.