Last month, a swastika, and other Nazi symbols were spray-painted over Ya La’ford’s SHINE mural at the tunnel between Tropicana Field and Ferg’s in St. Petersburg. And while police can’t investigate the vandalism as a hate crime, La’ford—who is Jewish and Black—never let the graffiti get to her.
And now, with the help of the Rays and local real estate firm Smith & Associates, La’ford told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay that she’s repainting the “Blue Sunnel” mural (stylized "Blue SUNnel") as part of the 2021 SHINE mural festival happening Oct. 15-24.
In a text message La’ford said the “Sunnel” won’t be an exact recreation of the work first painted five years ago. Instead, it will be less blue and will speak to the community’s connection to the sky and surrounding water.
“[I’m] thinking of getting a mirror so that we can reflect, look up and discover yourself your reflection and meditate in the space,” La’ford said on “SUNnel part 2.” She hopes the work ends up being a collaborative storytelling opportunity with the local community which speaks to the idea that “everything should begin here and now and [bridge] a dialogue with the universe at large."
Citing Eastern philosophy and the constant state of shifting and adjusting to the world, La’ford wants the work to feel alive.
“The space can be a living breathing tunnel. Redefining what defines the nature of an object. How do we as the object move through our climate? Could you be fertilized? As a person we undergo all sorts of weather. Sun brings light or shadow,” she told CL. “The tunnel is a space to re-examine space, and how we examine and investigate and redefine humanity.”
"This tunnel represents connection and we feel it should embrace St. Pete's rich history of diversity and our inclusive welcoming community,” a rep for Smith & Associates told CL. The company was the initial sponsor for the first blue tunnel and is funding the restoration at La’ford’s discretion.
“Ya is a leader in bridging communities and we love that she involves local kids in her artwork. She not only paints our walls with meaningful art but she gets the kids engaged and interested in art. We are excited to see what she will do in the next transformation of this space," the company added.
Look for details on the re-painting soon, but in the meantime enjoy the new La’ford created as part of the St. Petersburg Grand Prix happening this weekend.
A large-format canvas inspired by St. Pete and racing culture features a design that mimics the history of the racing map through downtown and incorporates recycled Arrow McLaren SP race car materials. The final product will be displayed at the Tampa Convention Center leading into the weekend. After this weekend, it’ll be donated to the St. Pete Arts Alliance and moved to the St. Petersburg Museum of History.
"Within the painting, I plan to arrange an abstract collage of colors to represent the Sun's thermal gaze on the city, coupled with hints of blue to highlight the ocean adjacent to the track. Metal pieces from the car will be molten into the paint and rubber merged to demonstrate the high-speed ingenuity experienced on our city track," said La'ford in a press release.
A second project involves her live painting an Arrow McLaren SP IndyCar trackside Saturday and Sunday. The design replicates the vibrations during each race.
And if you can’t make it to the race, see La’ford’s art at Toronto Blue Jays’ Dunedin complex, at St. Pete’s Historic Manhattan Casino, and or see photos from the immersive art exhibition earlier she had year at HCC.
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