Picture this: Murals to transform blight to bright in Hollywood
HOLLYWOOD — Picture downtown’s walls, boarded-up buildings and alleyways as giant blank canvases calling out for vibrant, color-splashed artistic expression.
That’s the way the city sees it — and so does Miami-art scenester and abstract cartoon artist David “Lebo” Le Batard, who has offered his services free.
In an effort to convert blight to bright, the city’s newly formed mural-review committee has given thumbs up to Le Batard’s vivid, primary-color concept for the plywood-covered storefronts on the southwestern arc of Young Circle.
“This kind of has that 1950s-beat appeal to it, funky art,” said Commissioner Beam Furr, who for years has been pitching downtown’s potential as a mural mecca. “Murals, they become landmarks. People like to see them, it kind of dresses up the downtown.”
It also plays into the city’s vision of what its downtown should be: a live-music district and cultural hub with creative cachet.
A similar movement took hold in Miami’s Wynwood Arts District, where a flagging factory and warehouse region is now a hip locale defined by its street art, studios, galleries and murals.
An artist like Le Batard couldn’t be a better starting point, said Furr: “I’m thrilled that we have Lebo. That’s the caliber of artist that we’d like to get as much as we can.”
Le Batard said he hopes to take the project from concept to completion in the next two months.
He estimates it would take about three weeks, working with a couple of assistants four to five hours a day, four to five days a week.
The murals will be limited to the confines of downtown’s Live Music District, running along Hollywood Boulevard and Harrison Street and bounded by 21st Avenue and Young Circle.
Le Batard, 39, grew up in Miramar, graduated from Chaminade Madonna High School in 1990 and is the brother of sports writer and radio host Dan Le Batard. The artist known as Lebo defines his style as “post-modern cartoon expressionism” and applies it to floors, stages, buildings, Gibson guitars and Adidas sneakers too.
Public murals, he says, are about creating something larger than life, universally themed and accessible to all.
“Too often, people put art on this pedestal and it has this big capital ‘A’ on it, and it stops being human and it stops being real,” Le Batard said. “This is a way of keeping it real, and it’s a way of bringing art to people instead of expecting people to come to art.”
The City Commission created the mural-review committee this spring not as arbiters of taste but rather to ensure that murals don’t contain commercial messages or depict alcohol, tobacco or anything deemd offensive or obscene.