In recent years West Palm Beach has upped its public transportation game with Brightline trains, free trolleys, bike racks, and the Palm Tran buses.
To highlight and encourage all this multimodal transport, they put out a call to artists last fall to create a mural atop the Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency (TPA) at 301 Datura Street to inspire and envision a safe, efficient, and connected system that provides mobility and access to the community.
They asked for the mural, sized 52 feet wide by 16 feet high, to include various modes of connected transportation in Palm Beach County. These modes of travel include walking, biking, buses, trains, cars, airplanes, and boats.
They also wanted to portray the diverse population of Palm Beach County, including transportation users of all ages and abilities, and to have “an uplifting tone, theme, and sense of place where everyone feels welcome and included.”
The winner of this call is local artist Eduardo Mendieta, who goes by Emo and has done many murals in the city.
“We are thrilled to see another mural added to downtown West Palm Beach,” said TPA Executive Director Valerie Neilson. “We hope this inspires people who pass by and take it in to try other modes of transportation, whether that’s hopping on transit, riding a bike to run errands, or walking to grab lunch with friends.”
Mendieta, originally from New Jersey, has lived in Florida for 26 years. The artist hopes to create art that everyone who uses the multimodal – by train, bus, walking, or bicycling – will be able to identify with.
“Initially, when they did the call, I gave a rough outline of a design,” Emo says. “And then, once they picked me, of course, they had notes. But my initial drawing was pretty close to what it ended up being. They asked for changes in workout outfits, like shorts and tank tops instead of business attire. I also changed the initial rider to a more professional-looking rider with a matching helmet and spandex outfit. They wanted someone more casual.”
The space he painted on atop the building had originally been a sign for a business there from the 1950s, then it was filled with ads and then painted over when the Transportation Agency took over.
The two sides of the mural each have a different focus.
“The call to artists pretty much asked for what they wanted in the mural. Of course, they let me depict in my style how they wanted public transit, which was specifically trains, buses, riding bicycles, and walking,” he says. “In the call for artists, it was also mentioned that it could be abstract. It doesn’t have to be exactly, but I’m more of a pictorial artist.”
He focused on the train for one mural and the bus for the other, with figures placed around those dominant images.
“I grew up in New Jersey, like right by the city, so I was used to public transit, and then when I moved over here in the 90s and there was like no public transit, so it definitely has gotten better. I still never take the bus, but I do ride the train down to Miami every so often. TriRail at first, and I’ve taken the Brightline a couple of times too.”
Emo took some time-lapse video of his 2-week process that can be seen on his Instagram.
So, is he happy with the way they turned out?
“Yeah. Yeah. I’m very happy. I think it’s a positive thing. It’s something with a little bit more of a message than a lot of the murals have.”