Mural to wrap Espirito Santo Plaza site with art from New World School
By Sherri C. Ranta
A 184-foot-long mural featuring famous buildings from Miami's architectural past and painted by local high school students is decorating the construction site at one of the city's future towers on Brickell.
Painted by New World School of the Arts students, the 4-foot-wide mural features renditions of buildings from Miami's early days and will camouflage the fence surrounding the emerging $160 million Espirito Santo Plaza, 1395 Brickell Ave., for the next two years.
The 36-story, 1.2 million-square-foot tower is scheduled for completion in summer 2003.
Bill Ross, president of Estoril Inc., developer of Espirito Santo Plaza, said the mural is a joint celebration of the artistic talent at the city's magnet high school for the visual and performing arts and the construction of the plaza designed by Kohn Pederson Fox of New York.
Estoril spent about $25,000 for the mural, a figure that included stipends to about 19 sophomore and junior high school students who completed the project this summer.
The Espirito Santo family is a strong supporter of the community and the emerging artists at New World School of the Arts, Mr. Ross said. It's a great way for Group Espirito Santo to support them and the company ends up with something that enhances the plaza project, he said.
"This is more than a business decision. You really feel good looking at these works," he said.
New World Dean of Visual Arts Louise Romeo said the students worked long hours to complete the mural on time.
"They worked around the clock virtually," she said. "They surpassed my expectations of what came out. The mural is spectacular."
Officials at Estoril supplied the school with pictures from the Historical Museum of Southern Florida in Miami and gave the school lots of freedom to create the project, she said.
"It really is a nostalgic narrative of what Miami is and how it has evolved and where it is today," Ms. Romeo said.
The mural includes buildings from Miami's horse & buggy days, she said, and buildings such as the Freedom Tower and the original Burdines and Sears stores. The mural is composed of 23 separate 4- by 8-foot panels.
"Look at the mural and you'd never know 19 different students worked on it," Ms. Romeo said. "It has a sense of continuity and unity. That occurred because they worked in a very collaborative manner. From an educational experience, this to them was valuable."
The panels were prepared using various finishes to protect the marine plywood from the elements as well as preventing paint from soaking into the panels and fading. The entire mural will be covered with Plexiglas to protect it from vandalism, officials said.
When finished, the plaza will feature a 36-story, elliptical-curved arch, a symbol of Miami's unique perspective as the continental gateway to Latin America, Mr. Ross said.
"We intentionally set out to work with a firm that would design a building to make an artistic statement," he said. "We believe it will be something that will age very well and be a classic in people's minds."
Espirito Santo Plaza will front Brickell Avenue and extend a full city block in the heart of Miami's international financial district. The tower design includes 300,000 square foot of office space, 7,500 of retail, restaurant facilities comprising 15,400 square feet, a 7,000-square-foot indoor fitness club, and a 225,000-square-foot hotel providing suite management for condominium residences.
The project is named for the Espirito Santo family, a Portuguese financial group that controls a diversified, international conglomerate with operations throughout Europe and the Americas.
The plaza will be on the site of the former home of Espirito Santo Bank of Florida, which was demolished in spring 2000. The bank will be relocated from its temporary location at 999 Brickell Ave. and will become the anchor tenant using 60,000 square feet in the plaza upon completion.
After the mural's two-year run on Brickell Avenue, Mr. Ross said the panels might be installed in the plaza, a museum or auctioned to raise money for New World School of the Arts.
Group Espirito Santo's first two projects with New World included fundraisers for the school. A fourth joint project is planned in December to coincide with Art Basel, an international arts show making its first Miami appearance at the Miami Beach Convention Center.