Rolling by on Adamo Drive, thousands of motorists have gotten glimpses under the scaffolding of the work in progress, but a huge mural painted to tell the story of Ybor City makes its official unobstructed debut next week.
"I love it," said Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who will dedicate the mural at 2 p.m. Tuesday. "It is a tribute to the diversity and the history of Ybor City. Ybor City is not shy and reserved. Ybor City is bold. Ybor City is colorful. I'm a big believer in public art anyway, and I think it's a great addition to Ybor City."
The 12,000-square-foot mural has been painted on the side of Fabricated Products of Tampa overlooking Adamo Drive between 17th and 19th streets. At 35 feet tall, organizers say, it will be one of the largest, if not the largest, outdoor murals in Florida.
And it's meant to convey a three-part message: This is where Tampa began. This is a community of artistic expression. And here is a gateway to Ybor City's heritage, so come on in.
Fundraising for the $30,000 project began about three years ago, with support coming from the city, the Ybor City Development Corp. and about two dozen Ybor businesses and other organizations. The walls were treated to prevent corrosion before scaffolding went up in September.
Michael Parker, an adjunct instructor of art at Hillsborough Community College in Ybor City, recruited students to help paint and interviewed residents as part of his research. Among the people included in the mural is surgeon Frank Adamo, who was born in Ybor City.
David Scott, the Ybor City businessman who led the effort to organize and raise money for the project, told the City Council this month the project should help preserve "that sense of what Ybor is."
"When you look at this image," he said, "there are so many messages relevant … to the heritage of Ybor City, the cigar industry and Tampa's origins writ large. It will be a good contribution and a point of interest."
What happens, council member Mike Suarez asked, if someone wants to redevelop that section of Adamo?
Under a contract allowing the project to move forward, the mural won't be touched for six years, Scott said. But after that, since the mural is painted on corrugated steel, it could be taken off the building easily if necessary.
"You could put that anywhere," he said. "It could be relocated."
Richard Danielson can be reached at email@example.com, (813) 226-3403 or @Danielson_Times on Twitter.