24’x100’ Acrylic on Aluminum, 2012, Bradenton FL, 30 Community Participants
This amazingly committed mural team raised a question that was seemingly simple but difficult to answer. What brought you here and why do you stay? The responses to this question had the group divided. Many adults in this community are transplants from other places. It’s exciting to know that many of them decided to come and settle here because they enjoyed the balance between living in a small community while retaining urban conveniences. A strong connection among the adults was the potential of the place and the opportunity to make a difference within it. Many of us have gotten lost within huge urban settings plugging and plugging and still feeling somewhat lost and isolated. Here when you participate in the constantly unfolding community you get the sense that your actions matter. You form strong bonds with neighbors and are able to see the changes that you make alongside them. Manatee County was settled because of this idea and also overlaps the changing identity of Florida as a place.
The younger generation sees this place much differently. The consensus among them is that the place has nothing to offer them. It’s boring. Given the chance they would leave without hesitation. While changing, contributing and watching our community, did we forget that we have children and they also need to feel a connection to their place? The youth are the potential in our place. The reason why the adults enjoy living here is because the place has always retained a youthful feeling. It can also make you feel young again and as a culture remains in its youth. People have recognized this from the beginning of its settlement and is partly why they stay. Our children will eventually need to experience other cultures and participate in what they might feel is something bigger than themselves. We should encourage them to represent us, learn what they can and say to them, “I’ll see you when you return”.
The image that our group has formulated together embodies this feeling and connection to this place. We have used the likenesses of two of our teen members to represent us in a confident and courageous form. Using bridges, both for vehicles and foot traffic, we have represented on one hand the urge to explore something bigger and possibly better but that also brings you back to walk in open space full of opportunity and the potential to create your own path. All of the paths can bring you back to the central core, which is: no matter what we do or where we go we are always welcome back home to our family.