The newest mural in town is also the nation’s longest road tattoo installation! Artist Steed Taylor’s mile long “road tattoo” was dedicated at a ceremony May 1 at the block along Rosemary Avenue that borders West Palm Beach Police Station. In attendance were people who make public art happen in West Palm Beach including Mayor Jeri Muoio, Art in Public Place’s Sybille Welter, Gopal Rajegowda, Senior VP at Related Companies, Raphael Clemente, Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Executive Director, and many more.

“Steed just said to me ‘I heard you like art’”, said Mayor Muoio. “I said yes I like art that bridges communities together, and this project does just that by stretching Rosemary Ave. from the heart of downtown up to the Northwest area by the Sunset Lounge.”

Before the ceremony started, Taylor was seen finishing painting names of dozens of members of the area into the mural, those who had contributed to the ecological and conservation history of South Florida as his mural pays homage to them in flowers and plants native to the area. The northwest part of the mural uses music notes from the song Round Midnight by Thelonious Monk.

Also at the dedication ceremony was Ricky Aiken of Inner City Innovators, Inc., a Florida non-profit organization committed to breaking the perpetual cycle of youth delinquency and gun violence in inner cities.

Aiken read from a powerful statement that said in part “Today we gather under the unified purpose of celebrating Genii Loci, a symbol of hope for our city…but before we can embrace the hope for a brighter future we must acknowledge and release the pain of our collective past…, now the foundation of our hope for progress in creating a more equitable future. We acknowledge the effort to create an integrated economy as opposed to a gentrified community. Though progress is inevitable, we’re grateful that our leaders have made it inclusive.”

Once the mural is complete, it will remain on the street until it wears away, a process that may take up to two years.

“This exciting initiative is one of many that will allow the community to interact with arts and culture in a new way – we feel it’s crucial to the redevelopment and unification of Downtown West Palm Beach,” Gopal Rajegowda said.

Roads are long, connecting isolated communities in a myriad of ways. This thought struck and captivated artist Steed Taylor when he was on residency in Maine years ago and gave him the idea to lay down public art installations he calls ‘Road Tattoos’.

“I wanted to find a common public space for art and take possession of the roadways,” Taylor said by phone before arriving to West Palm Beach in April. “The first one I ever did was dedicated to a lady that had passed away and that gave me the idea to embed her name into the work and to include the community. That’s why now I paint peoples’ names into the design but then cover it up so it’s part of it but underneath the surface, like how tattoos get under the skin.”

Steed Taylor’s Road Tattoo Genii in West Palm Beach runs over a mile along the heart of Rosemary Avenue. The painted street mural, coined by the artist as the ‘skin’ of the community, features three elements – a twisty rope of local native flowers, Celtic knots emphasizing the power of community, and music notations for the Jazz standard Round Midnight by Thelonious Monk where the mural winds up—as a nod to the historic Sunset Lounge and its unique history.

The installation is the longest continuous road tattoo in the world. It engaged local artists, organizations, students and community groups who also painted a portion of the project.

Artist Steed Taylor Paints a Road Tattoo on Rosemary Avenue
The artist while at work, April 18, 2018 / Photo WPB Magazine

“I used students from Dreyfoos School to help research the names to be painted into it,” Taylor says. “I wanted the piece to honor the eco system and environment, particularly the people who fight to protect those resources in this unique state. Beyond the beaches and fun-in-the-sun ethos, what has always fascinated me about Florida is the abundance of unique waterways, flora, fauna and history not found anywhere else in our country. When I was approached to do a road tattoo in West Palm Beach, I knew this was exactly what I wanted it to be about. I’m excited about the length of it also because a car going 30 mph takes only about 5 seconds so a 200-foot piece won’t be seen very long. This one is lengthy and also in a walking area so the view will be longer.”

Taylor explained to WPB Magazine the deeper meaning of it all saying “Road tattoos explore the expression of loss and longing within public space. Commemorative, site-specific, community-based, tattoo-inspired, public artworks on roads, they repurpose a common, yet much loved and romanticized public space with additional meaning and significance. If roads are the ‘skin’ of a community, they have a similar relationship to the public body as skin does to the private body. As people mark their skin as a means of commemoration, communication and ritual, then a road can be marked for the same reasons. Road tattoos are based on cultural designs previously appropriated to mark skin and are sited in relation to their specific meanings.

WPB Magazine Photo Gallery – Photos by Rolando Chang Barrero.

Names, or other information, were painted within the design, a nondenominational prayer commissioned for the piece was said and the design was painted in, covering over this information.”

“The emotional connection to art in a city is essential, and with Rosemary Avenue being a major North-South corridor in Downtown West Palm Beach, it serves as the appropriate canvas for this inspirational piece,” said Rajegowda. “Art has the potential transform a city and its residents, and we believe this collaborative public artwork has the potential to unite our residents to create something ambitious with both meaning and beauty.”

Affectionately titled Genii Loci, Latin for the protective spirits of a place, Steed Taylor’s Road Tattoo is a few inches away from the traffic lines and markers.

Taylor is known for his public artwork as well as his work in galleries. Born near Fayetteville, North Carolina and educated at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His road tattoos have been inked into cities like Chicago, IL, Washington, D.C., Arlington, VA and New Orleans, LA.