Renowned artist Steed Taylor has been commissioned by Related Companies, the City of West Palm Beach, the City Redevelopment Agency and Art in Public Places, to create an art installation known as a ‘Road Tattoo.’ The temporary painted street mural, affectionately titled Genii Loci, Latin for the protective spirits of a place, is viewed by the artist as the ‘skin’ of the community. The installation will stretch for more than a mile along Rosemary Avenue from Okeechobee Boulevard to Eleventh Street, making it the longest continuous road tattoo in the world. The mural will feature a combination of local native flora, Celtic knots emphasizing the power of community, and music notations as a nod to the historic Sunset Lounge and its unique history. The installation began in April and engages local artists, organizations, students and community groups to paint a portion of the project.
Road tattoos are commemorative, site-specific, community-based, tattoo-inspired, public artworks on roads. They are a result of my investigation into repurposing a common public space for art and a desire to bring socially engaging art to where people live. But what exactly are they? If roads are considered the skin of a community, then a road has a similar relationship to the public body as skin does to the private body. As people mark their skin for commemoration, communication and ritual, then a road can be marked for the same reasons. Names or other information are written in the design, a nondenominational prayer commissioned for the piece is said and the names are painted over sealing them in the artwork. I have honored children of local soldiers killed in our recent wars, victims of domestic violence, long-term AIDS survivors, grandparents raising their grandchildren, community activists and many, many other people and topics.
Beyond the miles of beaches and fun-in-the-sun ethos, Florida is abundant with unique ecosystems, waterways, flora, fauna, history and people not found anywhere else in our country. To allow these unique aspects of Florida to survive and thrive, individuals fought, petitioned, lobbied and worked to keep them this way. Genii Loci is Latin for the protective spirits of a place and it is these people we are honoring with this artwork. The names of people who have protected and supported the unique native character, flora, fauna, ecosystems, waterways, ordinary people, essence, authenticity and well-being of the West Palm Beach area will be included in the artwork. Of specific interest is the historic jazz venue, the Sunset Lounge, at the north end of the road tattoo. Purchased by the city for renovation with additional land for a new music-oriented park, icons of jazz such as Count Bassie and Ella Fitzgerald drew as many as 1,000 people a night, both black and white. This all-included ethos was unique for the times, especially in the south, and underlines why this beloved institution and the people who made it happen are a treasure of the Northwest neighborhood, the city and the state.
Located on Rosemary Avenue from Okeechobee Boulevard to 8th Street, Genii Loci is a 1.22 miles in length. Keeping with the idea of this artwork, the 3-color, 3-element design includes an exuberant, stylized combination of local native flora such as trumpet vine, swamp mallow, beach sunflower, rain lily, coontie, ferns and ivy, braided lines emphasizing the power of community and music notations for the jazz standard Round Midnight as a nod to the Sunset Lounge and the unique history it represents yet how relevance it still is today.