Local artist Ya La’ford teams up with St. Pete kids for heartwarming Rowdies mural

The team’s season-closer is on Saturday.

click to enlarge PHOTO C/O YA LA’FORD
Photo c/o Ya La’ford

This summer, Ya La’ford embarked on one of her most ambitious mural projects yet — a soccer-inspired community mural outside Al Lang Stadium.

The local artist has a habit of organizing successful community mural projects in the Tampa Bay area. Her first community mural project was at the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum in 2015, right as the Museum’s non-renewable lease was about to expire.

Quantum Inhabited Space brought the community together to support the museum, its history and future exhibits, ensuring it could remain a treasure for all of St. Petersburg,” says La’ford, “Soon after, the city purchased the building from the St. Petersburg Housing Authority for $600,000.”

In 2016 La’ford painted the north wall of the historic Manhattan Casino with MYcroSchool Pinellas students. Then in July 2018, she collaborated with Fairmount Park Elementary School students on a new mural in the school’s courtyard.

"Art brings people together, and nowhere is that more evident than on our historic Al Lang Stadium, where Ya La'Ford has collected prints of the hands and feet of our community. The prints are a reminder that we're more alike than different and that together we as a united community are the true masterpiece, a diverse interwoven fabric." — Mayor Rick Kriseman

Though La’ford has shown her work in the Orlando Museum of Art, the Tampa Museum of Art, and the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art, she says it’s these community projects that mean the most to her.

“This is what I love. This is where I think my journey as a human being makes a difference,” explains La’ford.

In this, her latest community mural project, La’ford collaborated with the Rowdies and the City of St. Petersburg on a new mural at Al Lang Stadium celebrating teamwork. Over 100 St. Petersburg residents placed their hands upon the mural, literally. As far as the number of people involved, La’ford says it’s her biggest project yet.

“If you think about the actual sport of soccer, it’s all about teamwork, and this project parallels that,” she says.

Initially, La’ford directed Rowdies players to leave their green footprints in two concentric circles against a bright yellow wall. Then she invited fans to place their handprints alongside the players’ footprints.

click to enlarge PHOTO C/O YA LA’FORD
Photo c/o Ya La’ford

Community leaders, including Mayor Rick Kriseman, Deputy Mayor Dr. Kanika Tomlin and Rays President Brian Auld, lent their handprints as well. For these, La’ford chose black, a combination of all colors, to symbolize their role as representatives of St. Pete.

Finally, La’ford invited Girl Scouts and 120 kids from south St. Pete’s Mt. Zion Christian Academy to add their handprints in a third circle. By bringing the kids’ prints into such close proximity with the hands of their community’s leaders, La’ford hopes these kids will realize there’s a community outside of what they see every day — a community that cares about them. This is especially important for children growing up in underprivileged and underserved communities like south St. Pete.

In south St. Pete neighborhoods, La’ford tells us, “There is a feeling of hopelessness sometimes, a lack of exposure and a lack of opportunity.”

“We have the power to create change,” says La’ford, “and that is what I’m trying to do with these children.”

The Rowdies play their final match of the season against Indy Eleven at Al Lang Stadium on Saturday, October 12. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m., and more information ticketmaster.com.

click to enlarge PHOTO C/O YA LA’FORD
Photo c/o Ya La’ford

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About The Author

Jennifer Ring

Jennifer studied biology for six years, planning for a career in science, but the Universe had other plans. In 2011, Jen was diagnosed with a rare lung disease that sidelined her from scientific research. Her immune system, plagued by Scleroderma, had attacked her lungs to the point of no return. She now required...
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