Former assistant returns to St. Croix mural after 30 years to lead restoration
Published: September 4, 2012
Font size: [A] [A] [A]
ST. CROIX - Stuart Rames was a young artist with promise in 1981 when he assisted Paul Youngblood in the creation of a mural in Estate Grove Place. More than 30 years later, he has revived the aged mural along with a renewed sense of pride in the community where he grew up.
Rames said he began painting when he was 13 and connected with Youngblood, who was his teacher and mentor.
Youngblood was excited to take on the project of creating the mural "A Tribute to Bob Marley" on a public dam, Rames said. They received a grant from the Virgin Islands Council on the Arts.
"It was a great opportunity for me to be able to assist on this project along with Youngblood and Wereford Grouby," Rames said. "So when the time came and it was evident that it had needed to be restored, I thought it was my responsibility to spearhead it."
The community had respected the mural over the years and there never were any issues of graffiti or other defamation or vandalism, according to Rames. However, wear-and-tear from the sun, rain and hurricanes caused some cracking, fading, holes and lots of chipped paint.
Just to get the project moving took close to a year, Rames said, because he had to locate Youngblood, who has since left the territory, for permission to alter the painting. Rames also had to find the land owner and was able to secure $2,500 in funding from the Virgin Islands Council on the Arts to pay for supplies and time to complete the public art project.
"There were many obstacles and time ran away from me as I tried to get it started, but I'm glad that I did," he said.
Rames found out the land is owned by the government and the dam has been a meeting place for many in Grove Place and surrounding communities for decades because it was where residents came daily to catch water. The mural is located adjacent to D. Hamilton Jackson Park.
Rames has been a firefighter for more than 20 years and said he balances his career with his love for the arts and the project. He finished restoring the mural in about six weeks, working evenings and weekends.
"I know just how much love Paul Youngblood put into it the first time, so I thought that I was best suited to restore it to its former beauty," he said.
The mural features vibrant colors and earthy shades and depicts primarily elements from the life of reggae legend Bob Marley.
There are portraits of Marley and his wife, Rita Marley, as well as portraits of a king and queen lion and cubs representing Marley's children. One side of the mural portrays Marley singing and the vibrations of his voice are seen coming out into the air and floating towards the children.
Rames said the mural is a vision of hope, togetherness and promise, something Marley believed in and sang about.
While working on the mural, Rames said he met and spoke with some of the young men from the community and expressed his hope that they will see the mural as a positive symbol in the community.
"Many of them were idle and really not having the mind-set of being progressive, but I want them to see the mural as a reminder of what this community is supposed to be," he said. "As a people, we should be always ready to build up and not destroy."
Colleen Carter, a member of the Grove Place Action Committee, said the added color to the faded mural has really made a big difference in the surrounding area.
"That area had been used by Grovians for years and is a very important landmark," she said. "We are very grateful that someone with such talent and love for the area was able to get the insight to make those improvements."
She said a new generation of residents and former residents are stepping up to the plate to improve the community and it is really uplifting.
"From back in the days of our grandparents, we would give directions to people by using the dam as a landmark," she said. "The fact that we can still do that and show off this piece of lovely public art is really a blessing for the entire community.
- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.