2019 Treasure Tampa grant goes to Art2Action for placemaking project

In its third year running, Treasure Tampa T², a $30,000 grant program maintained by the Gobioff Foundation specifically geared toward creative placemaking, has announced its 2019 grant recipient as the local non-profit Art2Action with the project “Painting Ourselves Visible.”

Sticking to its roots of fostering the works of underrepresented artists like women, artists of color, LGBTQ artists, and many others, Art2Action has selected the Egyptian artist Aya Tarek to create a new large-scale mural in the Tampa Bay Area.

“We never envisioned the $30,000 to be transformative like some of the examples given at creative placemaking conferences, but it can still have a significant impact on the community by propelling change that may not necessarily be physical or economical, but a pride in a place that can change a person’s view of their own hometown. When it comes down to what is creative placemaking to us, it’s the idea of the cross-sector collaborator to use the arts to improve and change the community with their involvement,” write Neil and Gianna Gobioff of the Gobioff Foundation.

As a young artist already of international acclaim, Tarek is a painter, street artist, and illustrator whose work is inspired by the interchanges between various forms of urban communication via vibrant, comic-like imagery. If her name sounds familiar, it’s because she has worked in the Tampa Bay Area before with Art2Action’s THIS Bridge: Arab, Middle Eastern, & Muslim Artists Project, which was Tarek’s first U.S. commissioned mural.

“We worked with Aya before and enjoy interdisciplinary interactions very much, so we saw this as a project to work with the City of Tampa and create a permanent visual marker in the Tampa Bay area. Once her mural with THIS Bridge was finished in 2015, we were sad that it was proposed as a temporary mural instead of a permanent one,” says Andrea Assaf, the Founding Artistic Director of Art2Action. “She is the perfect confluence to do a permanent mural in a public place because she has this contemporary aesthetic that is influenced by Egyptian pop culture, and even American pop culture, which makes it easier for viewers here to relate to her work.”

As somewhat of a continuation of the THIS Bridge Project, Assaf hopes to look for ways to keep fostering and building those ties built. Though the content of the “Painting Ourselves Visible” mural has yet to be decided, Tarek will be using her month-long artist residency at Art2Action to engage in community conversations that will help inform her work.

“I chose this title ‘Painting Ourselves Visible’ because what strikes me about Tampa is that it is an extremely global, international city but our communities don’t necessarily interact, overlap, or even notice each other. Part of the project was figuring out who lives here, specifically Muslim populations, or immigrants. I found that it’s an enormous community, but not one that you necessarily see around the city, especially around the downtown area. Tampa is a very car-oriented city, so we’re not in each other‘s neighborhoods all that much. I’m interested in bringing our communities, especially communities of color, to a public space together to share experiences,” Assaf says. “I also think that Egypt is particularly interesting as a global location because it’s a place that is Arab, African, and Mediterranean; and it’s a global crossroads of race, art, and history.”

Art2Action will be working with the City of Tampa in deciding a location for the mural, but Assaf hopes that the project will kick off in the late Fall. One of the main reasons for this is to allow the project to coincide with a new Community-Based Projects course at USF, where students will get to experience the process and learn how organizations like Art2Action make creative placemaking projects.

“It’s a big deal because we made it as a general education course, so you don’t have to be an art major to sign up. We hope to get an interesting cross-section of students,” Assaf says.

As far as the future of the T²Grant goes, the Gobioffs are analyzing how to best to implement creative placemaking grants in the Tampa Bay Area.

“In the short-term, we are looking into any barriers that are hindering the application process and making sure we are getting the word out about the opportunity. We are confident that we have a good process in place, but we want to get more awareness of it.
We require cross-collaboration between sectors, so if an artist has an idea but not a partner to collaborate with, then it can be difficult to collaborate with someone. At the LOI phase, the process is much easier to apply so you can have an idea who your collaborator is, but not have anything solidified yet. Another barrier for this grant is flexibility with timing. For theatre or performance-based projects, schedules are a year in advance, so they have to build potential grant projects further in advance.

“Long-term goals include increasing the depth of the applications that we get. Some of the first year projects weren’t really creative placemaking projects, so there is becoming more awareness of what creative placemaking is. We want to continue seeing diverse projects that empower the community,” Gianna and Neil Gobioff explain.

Free public events for this mural will be held at various venues, like a special open mic held at The Bunker in Ybor. To celebrate the finished mural, Art2Action will be working with the American-Arab Cultural Center to host an old-school Block Party on the mural location with local Arab-Amerian hip hop artists. To find out about the free public events linked to this mural project, follow Art2Action on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Find out more about Treasure Tampa and previous grant recipients

Find out more about Aya Tarek in her interview about THIS Bridge.
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Read more articles by Caitlin Albritton.

Caitlin Albritton is a freelance writer based in Tampa with a BFA from Savannah College of Art and Design and a MFA from Maryland Institute College of Art. When she's not looking at art throughout town, she can be found making it. You can keep up with her visual art on Instagram @caitlinalbritton or on her website. Visit her recent line of inlay “wearable paintings.”