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TAG Project | the Art of Giving | 2011-2012

The TAG Project stands for THE ART OF GIVING - an innovative campaign with the mission to assist children in some of the world's neediest countries. As of this spring 2011, the FIU Art + Art History Department is now dedicating itself to encouraging members of our diverse, multicultural South Florida community to join together in raising funds, developing awareness, and creating “cool wearable art ...all with the same goal: helping children in need in Haiti. The TAG Project provided hundreds of underprivileged children, without even the most basic supplies of clothing and shoes, with amazing new pairs of durable sneakers - each personally adorned with original artistic designs by the TAG Team.
The TAG Team is our eclectic group of talented and passionate volunteers comprised of artists, FIU students, faculty, staff, athletes and students from local elementary and high schools, youth centers and cultural organizations. Our participants came from Zora Neale Hurston Elementary, David Fairchild Elementary, Leisure City K-8 Center, Coconut Grove Elementary, My Gang After School Program in Little Haiti, Overtown Youth Center, Little Haiti Cultural Center, Institute of Black Family Life, FIU Football team, FIU Women's Tennis, FIU Women's Basketball, FIU Women's Swimming, FIU Children's Creative Learning Center (pre-k), numerous FIU fraternities and sororities, Centro Cultural Español, South Miami Arts Charter School, the Frost Art Museum, and FIU Art Students. Utrecht Art Supplies has been a generous donor of 500 pairs of Converse, which are sold at their stores. These specific sneakers are sold at Utrecht due to their special type canvas which are specifically crafted to design/decorate. Utrecht has also extended a generous discount program to FIU art students and faculty when purchasing items for the TAG Project. Our university community donated the additional 300 pairs of shoes. After we collected the decorated shoes from our fourteen TAG Project events, I delivered 400 pairs of shoes to Haiti in July 2011.  I traveled with FIU’s Wertheim College of Medicine faculty member Dr. Pilar Martin, and her team. Dr. Martin has a long-standing relationship of providing regular medical care to the children living in three orphanages located in Port-au-Prince, and Petion-Ville. On September 30th, the second largest shipment of 400 pairs of shoes left for Haiti. I would like to thank Ms. Zelmira Rizo-Patron from BASE PAINT for providing the logistical support. The remaining TAG shoes will be distributed to the needy children during the Thanksgiving break. I will once again join Dr. Martin’s team and travel to Haiti. Their support is essential.
This project would not be possible without the generous help and encouragement from FIU Haitian Initiative, College of the Architecture & the Arts, Equal Opportunity Programs, the Frost Museum, Centro Cultural Español, as well as many of my colleagues, alumni, and friends.

Tree of Life , Liberty City Mural Project | 2013

Across the street from the Kwik Serve advertising “subs, lotto, cigarettes 24/7” and half a block from the Full Gospel Worship Ministry on N.W. 15th Avenue stands a 40-foot wall. One side anchors a computer lab for the residents of the Liberty Square public housing project. The other side fronts the gritty realities of life in Liberty City. A faded mural of African-American heroes covered the wall until recently. Years past its prime, residents no longer even looked up when walking past. Not anymore. Today a new mural covers the wall. “Tree of Life” is a vibrant metaphor for the promise of a community and the resilience of its residents. Created by the people of Liberty Square in collaboration with FIU and community organizations, the piece is a work in progress, much like the children who created it. Saturday, May 25, 2013 It’s 9 a.m. and Liberty City is rising with the sun. The sounds of Liberty Square’s impatient babies and playful children fill the air, traffic begins to pick up along N.W. 15th Avenue, and the sun climbs in the sky on a near-perfect spring day. At the mural, volunteers arrive, setting up drop cloths and scaffolding, lining up cans of paint and paint trays. Residents of Liberty Square begin to filter out onto the sidewalk. A pick-up truck filled with men passes slowly, its occupants flashing the thumbs-up sign as the driver honks the horn. Word has spread that this is the final day to work on the half-finished mural, and people are excited.

Lauderhill Overpass | 2011-2017

The Community Foundation of Broward and representatives from the Broward YMCA and the City of Lauderhill, recently commissioned Professor Jacek Kolasinski (FIU Art + Art History) and Professor Roberto Rovira (FIU Landscape) from FIU’s College of Communication, Architectures and the Arts (CARTA), to transform and enhance an unfriendly, littered highway overpass and into a public art space for local students and residents. Initiated back in 2013, the “Own the Overpath” project, envisioned a new concept for the Florida Turnpike overpass and its surrounding areas by introducing large scale colorful structures that provide shelter and protection to the community. Since 2011, over 200 police reports of assault, robberies and intimidation occurred the existing bridge that connected the Lauderhill neighborhoods, prompting the public art initiative. Students of Lauderhill Middle School and members of the Broward youth development programs were the most impacted by the social and academic barriers this pedestrian bridge created. In late 2017, Kolasinski and Rovira, lead designers and artists of the project, began the commissioned installation by gathering family, friends and local YMCA volunteers to add 250,000 multi-colored zip ties to add to the large scale structures. The colorful design reflects directly the identity of the surrounding community and youth.

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